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Sixth Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Reading 1 (Lev 13:1-2, 44-46):
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
“If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
which appears to be the sore of leprosy,
he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest,
or to one of the priests among his descendants.
If the man is leprous and unclean,
the priest shall declare him unclean
by reason of the sore on his head.
“The one who bears the sore of leprosy
shall keep his garments rent and his head bare,
and shall muffle his beard;
he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”
Reading 2 (1 Cor 10:31-11:1):
Brothers and sisters,
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.
Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or
the church of God,
just as I try to please everyone in every way,
not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,
that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Gospel (Mk 1:40-45):
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning the him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
I. THEME: The dangers of leprosy and sin
Leprosy is the most painful and dangerous in all human diseases. It takes away not only the beauty of human body, but also damages one’s dignity. The leper must endure physical pain because parts of his hands and feet gradually fall out until his death. He also faces psychological diseases. He feels lonely because he must live separately from others. He is despised and considered as the cause of impurity by people. He lives in despair because there is no hope to be healed.
Such a terrible disease; but it is still lesser dangerous disease than sin. It damages not only body but also destroys human soul. There is some sins, though it is regarded as venial, but its results are more terrible than leprosy. In the first Book of Kings, there is a story about Gehazi’s greed. He is the prophet Elijah’s servant. When he witnessed that his master refused to be compensated by Naaman, the Syrian commander; he secretely took a horse and chased after Naaman. He asked for some of Naaman’s tribute in the name of his master and Naaman gave him even more than what he asked for. But his secret action couldn’t be hidden from Elijah, his master, and he and his descendants must endure Naaman’s leprosy from that day (2 Kgs 5:20-27).
Today readings show us terrible results of these diseases and God’s special concern for the patients. In the first reading, the author of the Leviticus listed out what lepers must follow. In the second reading, St. Paul advised the Corinthian Christians to imitate him as he imitated Christ. They must do all necessary things so that all can be saved. In the Gospel, a leper came and knelt down before Jesus and made a request: “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. The leprosy left him and he was completely healed.
1/ Reading I: The duties of lepers
Chapter 13 of Leviticus is a long chapter for leprosy. Today passage mentioned only two first verses of and two last verses of this chapter. The lepers had the following duties:
(1) They must present themselves before a priest: “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a leprous disease on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests.” At that time, they didn’t have doctors and specialists as we have now; and lepers were classified as unclean to offer offerings to God. This is the reason why they must come to a priest to be examined, followed after, and certified if they are healed.
(2) They must announce their sickness so that people can avoid them: Until the twentieth century, leprosy was classified as contaminated diseases; therefore, there must be a separation between them and the healthy. Moreover, the Law considered lepers who were sick not only in body but also impure in mind. They could not enter the temple, and whoever touched them were also become unclean, and rendered unworthy to offer offerings. This is the reason why they must “wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, `Unclean, unclean.’” We could imagine how painful suffering of those who must follow these rules!
(3) They must live separately with others: “He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.” At that time, they didn’t have special hospitals as we have now, so lepers must live outside of human camps. They couldn’t enter the camp as long as they had this disease.
2/ Reading II: Do all to the glory of God.
St. Paul’s short passage centered on three main points:
(1) To glorify God: St. Paul advised the Corinthian christians: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” To glorify God means to make people to recognize God’s goodness so that they might believe in Him.
Why do we have to glorify God? First, through the sacrament of Baptism, we have officially become God’s children. As God’s children, we have a duty to glorify Him. We must behave in a way so that people recognize our Father in heaven is the good and loving Father and they might also believe in Him. Next, we are the members of the Church, Christ’s spouse. In the Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, of the Second Vatican II Council stated: The Church is the sacrament of salvation; and the duty of all her members is to do everything that is necessary for all people to inherit salvation.
(2) To set good and to avoid examples: St. Paul advised: “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,just as I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” One way to set a good example for people is to live a perfect life as Jesus advised his disciples: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). And, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16).
(3) To imitate good examples of holy men and women: St. Paul confidently advised his faithful: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” We have a perfect exemplar in Christ. All holy men and women tried to imitate him. We don’t need other models. We only need to do things which Christ did and taught us to do the same. For example, to learn how to love. Jesus taught us, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love… This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:9-12). However, what St. Paul’s advise isn’t useless since we are usually impressed by others’ life because they are also human like us.
3/ Gospel: “I will; be clean.”
3.1/ The leper respected God’s will: Living in a such painful suffering, the leper still obeyed God’s will when he made his request to Jesus: “If you will, you can make me clean.” He knew God creates everything because He wants them as such. The leper didn’t have any doubt in God’s power; he knew if God wants, He shall make him clean. God perfectly knows what is good for a man because He created him and isn’t conditioned by time. A man doesn’t know what is good for himself because he is limited in knowledge and conditioned by time. Therefore, human beings need to pray according to God’s will, not his own will.
3.2/ Jesus’ compassion: “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.”And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” According to Leviticus, to touch a leper is to become unclean; when one is unclean, he can’t go to the temple and offer his sacrifice. Jesus wasn’t afraid to touch the leper because he had compassion on him.
The prophet Isaiah foretold the Messiah’s sufferings because of his love for people as follows: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa 53:3-5).
3.3/ Leper in body can be compared with sin in soul: A comparison between two diseases shall show their dangers.
(1) Similarity: Both are quickly spread out and caused damages. Both are incurable diseases and dangerous for human life. Both must live separately from healthy people: a leper must live outside human camp and a convict must be confined in prison.
(2) Difference: Leper in body is less dangerous than sin in human soul. People can easily recognize leprosy, but not their sins. Leper causes damages only to body; but sin can destroy one’s soul and body, and others; for example: murder, adultery. The sin of pride which the sinner has a high regard for himself but despises other, can be considered not very serious at first, but it can cause many serious damages. We can list some of them as follows:
a) It makes one to separate oneself from God: God loves one who is humble and has compassion for the lowly. The arrogant separates himself from God. If he thinks he is already perfect, he shall not need God’s help. The story of Naaman, a Syrian commander, humbly listened to his servants and went down to Jordan river and emerged in it seven times. He was completely healed. This must be a wise lesson for the arrogant. If Naaman didn’t listen to a Hebrew maidservant to meet the prophet Elisha and did what he was told, he shall not be healed (2 Kgs 5:1-27).
b) It makes one to separate himself from others: The arrogant shall not be humble to learn from others and be irritated with those who aren’t wise as himself. He forgets that God gives him the wisdom is to help, not to despise people. Moreover, there are still many who are wiser than him; and many new things need to be acquired.
c) It makes one to feel lonely because people avoid him: This lonely feeling can make him sad, loosing appetite and sleep, and becoming irritated with all.
3.4/ What the leper must do after he was healed: As the Law demands the leper must present himself before a priest to be examined and to declare healthy, Jesus also demands a sinner to come to a priest to confess his sins and to be forgiven. The one who is healed must offer a sacrifice according to the Law, the one who is forgiven must also do penance to compensate for his sins, especially the sins of justice.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Through the leprosy disease, we recognize the dangers of sin. If we are afraid to be a leper, we must be afraid more of sin.
– God loves us so much that He gave us His Only Son. This Son takes all of our sickness and sins on himself in order for us to be healthy and clean.
– To imitate Christ who died for us, we must also sacrifice for each other so that all might reach salvation which Christ has won for us.