Lent Prepares Us To Celebrate God’s Love and Mercy

Jesus Walks With Us In Seasons Of Suffering

The Power of Words

Word of God Sunday: The Importance of Sacred Scripture

Renewing Our Discipleship in the New Year

Finding Jesus in the Busyness of Life

Msgr. Joseph Prior

(Readings of the Holy Mass – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Faith is our response to God who in His goodness calls us to believe. We have been following the Gospel of Mark for the Sunday readings this year. The first witness of faith after the public ministry began was from Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Jesus called them, invited them to follow Him. They left everything they had and follow. Today’s account recalls the person with leprosy who sought healing from Jesus.

The leper approaches, falls on his knees and says to Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” The man believes Jesus can help him. His words and actions both witness to his faith. You may recall that leprosy is a horrible disfiguring disease which eats away at the flesh. Up to the modern age, leprosy was thought to be contagious. A person with this disease would be required to be isolated from family, friends and the entire community. The reason was not intended to cause further injury to the ill person but rather to protect the entire population. We see this reflected in the law of Moses.

The first reading gives the instructions for a person who begins to have signs of the disease. They are to go to Aaron or one of the assisting priests. Should it be determined that the person has leprosy, he or she will be declared “unclean.” They will keep their garments rent and head bare and shall muffle his beard. All to give warning to those who might see the person that they are to be avoided. Added to this was the instruction that the person must cry out “Unclean, unclean!” and the person will live “outside the camp.”

While these requirements were thought to be a protection for the rest of the community, the effect on the sick person was devastating. Not only were they ill, now they were isolated. When we have a loved one who is sick, or at times if we are seriously ill, we know how important it is to have help, support, so that we will not be alone. Perhaps we know people who experienced this during the COVID crisis. All this to say that the man with leprosy was in a dire situation.

In the midst of his suffering, the leper reaches out to Jesus. He reaches out to Jesus with faith. Faith in Jesus. Faith in the one who can help. Jesus’ reaction is not one of fright. No distancing Himself from this man in need. No looking in shock or disgust at any disfigurement that might have been present. Rather He allowed the man to approach Him. He listened to him and as Saint Mark recalls He was “moved with pity (compassion).” Not only that but Jesus touched the man before saying, “I do will it. Be made clean.” He is made clean, he is healed.

Jesus instructs him not to tell anyone but rather to go to the priest. The instruction harkens back to the first reading. When he shows himself to the priest, the priest will see that he no longer has leprosy and can be declared clean. The isolation will be ended and he will be restored to family, friends, and the community. Jesus also instructed the man not to tell anyone but he cannot keep quiet. He is filled with joy at the gift God gave him through Jesus. His faith propels him to proclaim, to witness, to share the good news.

Jesus’ encounter with the man reminds us that we have nothing to fear when we are in need. We can go to God and seek His help. He is there to help us. He does not leave us at a distance but listens to our plea. His healing may come in ways we do not expect but it will come. He wants to heal us.

The faith of the man with leprosy inspires us in many ways. We see that faith as an impetus for divine healing. We join in the joy of the leper when we recognize God’s gracious and saving activity in Christ Jesus.

Perhaps we recall a moment of divine favor when we turned to the Lord and sought His assistance.

Perhaps we are inspired by the leper’s faith to deepen our own faith. Perhaps his witness leads us to turn to the Lord for help.

In this case, the refrain for today’s psalm puts words to our prayer in faith, “I turn to you Lord in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.”

***

Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

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