6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11 (7)
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
February 11, 2018
This leper came to Jesus in need of healing. He knelt before Jesus and begged for help. He expressed faith that Jesus can make him clean.
We are told Jesus was “moved with pity”. Why? Jesus has already healed many people but we have not heard of him being “moved with pity”. What makes this time different?
Simon’s mother-in-law had a fever that Jesus healed her of. For others, we are simply told they were ill. Today the man’s illness is named. He is a leper.
In biblical terms, leprosy is a broad illness covering skin diseases. The whole thirteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus is dedicated to these diseases.
If a person had a skin disease, they were brought to the priest who would examine them in accord with Leviticus and, if appropriate, declared them unclean.
Why would you go to the priest for a physical illness? We go to see medical doctors for physical illnesses. Yet, for leprosy a person would be declared unclean. They were to keep their garments rent and head bare. If anyone tried to come near them, they had to shout out, “Unclean, unclean!”
They had to “dwell apart..outside the camp.” This was not punishment. It was to isolate them so that others would not become ill. They were separated from the community. I think this is why they were sent to the priest, not for medical treatment, but realizing the significance of the lepers being separated from the community.
This isolation suffered by the leper is at the heart of why Jesus was moved with pity for the leper. He had been separated from the community. He was alone. The “aloneness”, the lack of community, could be worse than the disease.
Left alone, we can feel like no one cares.
Isolation is something we still do today. When we are ill, we are told to stay home to not spread germs. Even in church, we take precautions by not holding hands if we might be sick. At the Sign of Peace, we refrain from shaking heads if one might be ill. These are smart medical practices.
When we are the one who is ill, we know these are the right things to do but it can be hard. Most illnesses are just for a few days and so we get by. Leprosy could go on and on. Who knows how long the man might have been alone, never touched.
Jesus touched the man. The man was healed of leprosy but that touch was so important. It was Jesus loving him. Think of someone coming to you when you are in bed sick. Who might touch you without using a gown and gloves? Think of a time when you were sick as a child. Who came to you? Perhaps a parent who loved you. Think of what their touch meant in that moment.
How does being “alone” make us feel? As I ask this question, I want to move away from being physically alone to something more. You might think of an immigrant/migrant who comes to a new place. They might be near other people but no one they know. Even in a crowd, they feel alone. They feel like no one cares.
Chances are you have sat in the same pew for a long time. Do you know the people around you? What do you do when you see a new face? Do you make them feel welcome? Do you show concern for them?
Or are you more concerned for yourself? Imagine yourself sitting in your pew and you see a new face come in with young children. What is your reaction? Are you worried that the children won’t keep quiet during Mass or are you glad to see new children at Mass? Jesus would be glad.
If the children begin to make noise, do you grumble at the parents or tell them they have to take the children out? How does that make them feel? Unwanted? Unloved? Do you think they would ever come back? (Then, do you complain that young families don’t come anymore?)
Children should be taught to behave in church. This is a must. For this to happen they have to come to church. Welcome these families. Help them to feel loved. AFTER you show them love, maybe you can offer some support or guidance on helping their children to embrace being in church. But you can’t do this if you don’t make them feel welcome.
The families with children are just one example. Look around you. How many faces do you see that you don’t know. What can you do to help make sure no one feels alone?