Homily For The 6th Sunday Of Ordinary Time, Year B

Of Course! Jesus Wants To Heal Us Of The Leprosy of Helplessness!

Rdgs: (1st: Lev 13, 1-2. 44-46; Ps 31, 1-2. 5. 11; 2nd: 1Cor 10, 31. 11, 1: Gos: Mk 1, 40-45)

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

A couple of days ago we celebrated World Day of the Sick. Today the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the church continues to remind us of the fact that Jesus is the friend of outcasts. She also reminds us that unlike the Levitical priests, Jesus is still willing to do the unimaginable in order to save us from the leprosy of helplessness. Finally, she calls us to make Jesus our role model by caring for our brethrens instead of stigmatizing and branding them “outcasts.”

While reflecting on the readings of this Sunday, I recalled the event of 23, October, 2014, when we were greeted with the rumor that infiltrated the entire Island that some Nigerian priests in Dorado, Puerto Rico were infected with the Ebola virus. Only God knew how I felt when I heard this very unpopular, stigmatizing and character deforming rumor courtesy of one desperate television channel in the Island. It was then I knew what it meant to be stigmatized. Even though the whole story was later confirmed to be a flatus vocis by the same station that latter swallowed its own vomit and recanted, yet it was not an easy period. What worsened the situation was that during this period, apart from members of our immediate religious community and staff, only one person called to say: “I heard the rumor and, I know it is not true, do not mind their lies.” Others distanced themselves, went underground, while waiting for the confirmation of the rumor. Perhaps to excuse them, they knew it was one of such rumors and gossips characteristic of the island and so, decided to overlook it. But the fact is that, they never called or cared to say: “how are you coping with this rumor?” Why this story? This silence was like the stigma and the treatment prescribed for a leper in our first reading and, which the leper in our gospel actually suffered. It re-echoed the Levitical law which says: “He must live apart; he must live outside the camp.” This was the situation in the days of Jesus until he suddenly turned the table around and did the unimaginable.

Our first reading and gospel have a lot in common. This is because both of them referred to the hopeless situation orchestrated by leprosy. During the time of Jesus in Ancient (Near East) Israel, leprosy was a dreaded disease like the Ebola or HIVAIDS of our time. Contacting leprosy was a matter of life and death. Even though it was a physical sickness, according to Jewish religious and traditional beliefs leprosy was greatly associated with Sin. Hence, the immediate consequence of suffering from leprosy was that that the patient was “anathematized” and becomes an automatic outcast who must be banished: “As long as the disease lasts…and therefore, must live apart.” This is because his/her continuous existence or cohabitation with others will defile them. One sad aspect of this condition was that the victim has to announce his own uncleanness as the law stipulates: “He must shield his upper lips and cry, ‘unclean, unclean.’” Is this different from the stigma we subject people to, today?  Our first reading must remind us of the recent out breaks of diseases in our world, our reactions, and most especially the stigma people were subjected to. Reading about the way leprosy patients were treated in the holy books one might conclude that their treatment and punishment were too harsh. However, our own history certainly proves us wrong, that we have done worse than the Levitical code prescribed. I am sure we have not forgotten too soon that there were cases where sick people were rounded, up slaughtered and buried in mass graves because they were sick, weak, un-productive and, wasting the resources of the community or the country. During the Nazi’s T-4 programme, an estimated 250,000-350,000 Germans were put to death for being sick and weak. What is the reason behind the systematic gospel of “mercy killing” or euthanasia that we package, preach and present to our sick brethren today? In fact, it seems that more sick people die due to stigma, than from the actual disease they suffered. Yet, the truth my dear brethren, is that apart from the physical leprosy, there are more deadly kinds of helpless leprosy which only God through Christ, could cure us of. Through sin, we are all outcasts, but through the mercy of God and Jesus’ action of grace we are restored.

In the second reading, Paul implores us: “Take me as your model as I take Christ.” This model is that of sacrifice and caring for others, drawing closer to people especially in their weakness, sickness, and ensuring that they do not feel rejected. It is a model that refuses favoritism, segregation, branding of others, or stigmatizing the sick, or presenting them ungodly, deceptive and seductive options. This is why Paul says: “…I try to be helpful to everyone at all times, not anxious of my own advantage; but for the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved.” This is exactly what Christ did and is still willing to do for us. He did not spare himself in order to deliver us from the leprosy of helplessness. He was not afraid that he will contact it, yet, he abides with us. Paul replicated this with his life and encourages us to do the same with our own life.

In the gospel of this Sunday like that of last week, Jesus continues to heal. Today, Jesus encountered a leper. Instead of avoiding, rejecting or stigmatizing the leper, he touched and healed him. To the humble petition of the leper: “If you want to, you can cure me,” Jesus responded with both words and action: “! Of course, I want to, be cured!” When Jesus touched the leper he not only dared touching something unclean, but also dared doing something forbidden by the Levitical law. The reason is simple! He is the fullness and fulfillment of the Law and knew what the man needed most. By healing the leper, Jesus makes a statement that he was not excluded from Salvation. Although this man disobeyed Jesus’ instruction by announcing the miracle and, by not showing himself to the priest, the truth is that, the joy of being healed, and of rejoining his society overwhelmed him to the point that he forgot himself. The fact of today’s gospel is that Jesus proved to be different from the Levitical priests whose duty it was to pronounce judgment and make sure that a leper was duly punished. On the contrary, Jesus as a real brother and friend cared for and, cured the man.

Jesus communicates the love and mercy of God in signs that speak more eloquently than words.  This is what we must learn from Jesus today. How do we approach “the untouchables and outcasts,” the sick, the weak, the poor, and those we find difficult to love in our society? Do we offer them mercy and help as Jesus did?  There is no gain saying that in our world today many still suffer and die from the stigma we have placed on them because of their poverty, sickness, or weakness. Finally, each one of us manifested a helpless leprosy and, something more than this would have been found in our lives today if Jesus had not come to our aid. Most especially, it is good to know that there is a special willingness in Jesus to help us more. The Lord is always ready to show us his mercy and to free us from whatever makes us unclean. So he continues to say: “! Of course, I want to!” Therefore, praise him: “You are my refuge, O Lord; you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

Homilía Para El Quinto Domingo Del Tiempo Ordinario, Año B

Cristo Sana, Transforma, Y Nos Autoriza Para Ayudar a los Demás

Lecturas: (1o: Job 7, 1-7 ;Sal: 9, 16-23; 2 º: 1Cor 9, 16-19. 22-23: Ev: Mc 1, 29-39)

Este breve reflexión fue escrito por Padre Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. El es un sacerdote Católico y miembro de la Congregación de los Padres y Hermanos del Espíritu Santo (Espiritanos). El trabaja en la Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico y Republica Dominicana. Para más detalles y comentarios contacto él en:canice_c_ njoku@yahoo.com o canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com

En este quinto domingo del tiempo ordinario, la madre iglesia nos invita para alabar el Señor quien sana a los de corazón roto. Por lo tanto, ella vuelva nuestra atención al poder y la capacidad de Dios para librarnos a través de su hijo Jesucristo de nuestras situaciones terribles. Específicamente, ella nos recuerda que sin el sanador y transformador poder de Cristo, todavía estuviéramos en esclavitud perpetua y sin esperanza. Así pues, Cristo continua corriendo alrededor para sanar, transformar, y autorizarnos a fin de que podamos ayudar a los demás.

Algunos domingos pasados, después de Misa, un hombre con su esposa e hijo caminaron hacia mi, tomó mi mano, miró a mi rostro y dijo: “¡Padre usted me tocó y me sanó a mi hoy!” Al principio, yo estaba avergonzado y le pregunté: “¿qué le hice a usted? Mientras esperaba su respuesta, yo vi que ellos tres estaban en lágrimas. Después un poco tiempo el hombre me dijo: “Por cuarenta siete años nunca he sido tocado por cualquier predicador, Padre has transformado mi vida hoy.” Yo le dije: “yo no era el que lo tocó o sanó a usted, pero era Jesús.” Lo aceptaron y respondieron juntos: “Si, pero te ha usado a ti para hacerlo.” Por fin, yo les dije: “Por supuesto,” Entonces, oré por ellos y se fueron a casa con mucha alegría. Jesús esta todavía  tocando  y sanando a su pueblo. Jesús continua para hacer lo que Él hizo durante los días de los apóstolos en nuestros tiempos porque Él es el Alfa y la Omega; el primero y el ultimo; el principio y el fin” (Ap 22, 13). “Como hoy, Jesús  es el mismo y lo será siempre” (Hebreo 13, 8).

La primera lectura de hoy nos presenta el dilema  de Job un hombre inocente y un sirviente fiel de Dios. En lugar de dejar la imagen de sufrimiento y miseria llenar nuestras mentes, la historia de Job debería  darnos esperanza y confianza en la capacidad de Dios para salvarnos  con su poder. La fe de Job fue una prueba por Satanás. Ha perdido toda su riqueza legítima, hijos, amigos y fue infligido con lepra. Su propia esposa que se suponía que lo animara y lo apoyara a él en su momento difícil, lo abandonó como alguna mujer hace en nuestro mundo  hoy día. Como ser humano, Job se lamentó como hacemos cuando estamos atormentados: “¿Al acostarme, digo; cuando llegará el día? ¿Al levantarme: cuando será  de noche…? Recuerda que mi vida es un soplo, que mis ojos  no volverán a ver la dicha.” A pesar de esto, Job no perdió su fe en el poder y la providencia de Dios. El caso de Job nos recuerda nuestras propias luchas diarias con ambos problemas físicos y espirituales como: enfermedades, dificultades, rechazos, enajenación, discriminación racial, traición aun por nuestros amigos y miembros de nuestras familias. Sobre todo, nos recuerda de lo que nos parece como; el silencio grave de Dios o la ausencia de Dios, o la noche de oscuro de nuestras vidas.” Estos son momentos terribles cuando le preguntamos a Dios: ¿Dónde está usted Dios mío? ¿Por qué mí, Dios? ¿Qué he hecho mal? Sin embargo, es interesante saber que aun Jesús  hizo la misma pregunta: “¿Dios mío, Dios mío porque me has abandonado?” (Mt 27, 46). También, debido a la frustración, Job pidió a Dios: “¿Para qué dar luz un desechado, la vida a los que tienen amargada el alma?” (Job 3, 20). Estas preguntas son normales y simplemente indican que somos verdaderos  humanos. Sin embargo, si no perdemos nuestra fe en el proceso, Dios nos mostrará su poder que tiene la capacidad para salvarnos. Job  realizó esto y dijo: “Yo sé bien que mi redentor vive” (Job 19, 25). También, el Salmista dice: “Por la noche durará el lloro, y a la mañana vendrá la alegría” (Sal 30, 5). Así pues amados hermanos y hermanas ciertamente, Dios no nos decepcionará porque, Él nos dice diariamente: “Yo soy Yahveh tu Sanador” (Ex 15, 26).

En la segunda lectura de hoy, Pablo expresó una fuerte y buena voluntad para predicar el evangelio. Él dijo: “¡Ay de mi si no anunciare el evangelio!” La historia de Pablo es como la historia de un hombre que sobrevivió una enfermedad, que decidió dedicarse el resto de su vida a buscar una cura para la enfermedad, para ayudar a todos aquellos que están sufriendo de la misma enfermedad. Otra vez, es como, un doctor que ha descubierto una cura para una enfermedad como: Ebola o Chikungunya o AIDS y juró ofrecerlo gratis a todos los pacientes que están sufriendo de la enfermedad. Pablo estaba enfermo espiritualmente hasta su sanación divina por el poder de Jesucristo. Este fue un punto  dramático en su vida. Entonces, como un hombre curado, él sabe lo que significa estar enfermo. El doctor que curó a Pablo fue Jesucristo. Los medicamentos que lo curaron a él incluyen: la sangre preciosa, el nombre  y la buena nueva de Jesucristo. Pablo tomó una dosis llena de estos medicamentos y fue curado, transformado, y autorizado. Pablo se dio cuenta que “…No hay otro nombre bajo el cielo dado a los hombres, en que podamos ser salvos excepto el nombre de Jesus”;“todo que invocare el nombre del Señor será salvo” (Hechos  4, 12;  2, 21). Entonces, por maldecirse él mismo, Pablo declaró “un estado de emergencia” en las almas y naciones que están enfermos y necesitan  el poder de Jesucristo para recuperarse. Mi queridos hermanos, lo que debemos aprender de Pablo hoy es, que la buena nueva de Jesucristo sana, libera, y nos autoriza. Si hemos sido sanados y liberados por Cristo, como Pablo, convirtámonos a una fuente para sanar y liberar a los demás. Si has sido tocado y sanado, usted también debe tocar  y sanar  a los demás. Este es lo que Pablo dijo que significa: “Me he hecho débil, para ganar a los débiles; me hecho de todo para todos, para que de todos modos salve a algunos y esto hago para causa del evangelio, para hacerme copartícipe de él.” Cuando sanamos a los demás a través la buena nueva de Jesucristo, estamos también curados.

El Evangelio de hoy narra como Jesús fue curando, liberando y autorizando la gente. Al principio curó la madre de Pedro de su enfermedad (fiebre). Inmediatamente, ella curó a Jesús y sus compañeros de sus hambres por darles de comer. Esto es la razón por la que Marcos dice: “¡Y ella les servía!” Jesús predicó, y liberó muchas personas de sus varios tipos de enfermedades y problemas. No hubo nadie que viniera con fe que no fuera sanado. Este es un asunto muy importante que debemos reflexionar sobre hoy. Primero, cada uno de nosotros debe pedir por nosotros  mismos. ¿Tengo bastante fe en Jesucristo? Si Jesús debe sanarnos y liberarnos, debemos tener mucha fe en Él y en su evangelio. El poder de Jesús está todavía hoy mismo. Jesús está listo para sanar aquellos que están listos para esperarlo a Él; aquellos que lo ven a Él con fe; aquellos que están listos para abrir sus corazones a Él;  y aquellos que están listos para aguantar  hasta que lo encuentren a Él.

No importa cuánto tiempo hayas estado enfermo, cuánto tiempo has sido abandonado o quién  te ha abandonado. Como mi amigo que fue tocado y transformado después de cuarenta y siete años, no importa cuánto tiempo has sido terco o extraviado de Él. No importa las situaciones que están contra ti. Todo lo que necesitamos es paciencia, esperanza y fe en Jesucristo, quien es abundantemente capaz para sanar, liberar y autorizar a todos aquellos que confían en Él. Por lo tanto: “¡Alabemos al Señor quien sana nuestros corazones rotos!”

¡La paz sea con ustedes!

¡Maranatha (Ven Señor Jesús)!

Homily For The 5th Sunday Of Ordinary Time, Year B

Christ Heals, Transforms And, Empowers Us In Order To Help Others

Rdgs: (1st: Job 7, 1-7; Ps 9, 16-23; 2nd: 1Cor 9, 16-19. 22-23: Gos: Mk 1, 29-39)         

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

On this fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, the holy mother church invites us to Praise the Lord who heals the broken hearted. Hence, she turns our attention to the power and ability of God to deliver us through his son Jesus Christ from daunting situations. Specifically, she reminds us that without the healing and the transforming power of Christ we would have been in perpetual slavery, and hopelessness. So daily, Christ continues to move around healing, transforming and empowering us to help others.

Some weeks ago, after Mass, a young man with his wife and son walked to me, grabbed my hand, looked into my face, and said: “Father, you touched and healed me today!” At first I was embarrassed, and asked him: “What did I do to you?” As I waited for him to respond I noticed that the three of them were in tears, and the man said to me: “For forty seven years, I have never been touched by any preaching, Father, you have transformed my life today.” Finally, I said to him, “I was not the one that touched and healed you, it was Jesus.” They all nodded and said in unison, “Yes, but He used you to do it!” I said “of course!” Then I encouraged, and prayed for them before they left joyfully. Jesus is still touching and healing people today. What he did in the days of the apostles, he continues to do in our own time because: “He is the Ancient of Days” (Dan 7, 13), “the Beginning and the End” (Rev 22, 13), “the same today, yesterday and forever” (Heb 13, 8).

The first reading presents us with the dilemma of Job an innocent and faithful servant of God. Rather than leave the image of suffering and misery, the story of Job should raise our hope and trust in the saving power of God. His faith was severely tested by the devil. He lost all his legitimate wealth, children, friends, and was inflicted with leprosy. Even his own wife who should have encouraged and supported him in his difficult moment divorced him as most women do today in our modern world. As a man, Job complained as of us do: “Lying in bed I wonder, when it will be day? Rising I think, how slowly evening comes…Remember that my life is but a breath, and that my eyes will never see joy.” In spite of all these he did not lose his faith in the saving power, and providence of God. The case of Job reminds us of our own daily struggles with both physical and spiritual problems like: infirmities, hardships, rejection, alienation, racial discrimination, betrayal by even our friends and families, etcetera. Above all, it reminds us of what seems to us as: “the grave silence or absence of God or the dark nights of our lives.” These are terrible moments when we confront God with questions like: “God where are you, why me, what have I done wrong”?  However, it is interesting to note that even Jesus asked the same question: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Out of frustration, Job also asked God: “Why let people go on in misery, why give light to those in grief? (Job 3, 20). These questions are normal and simply indicate that we are truly human. However, if we do not lose our faith in the process, God will surely show us his saving power. Job later realized this, and said: “I know that my redeemer lives” (Job 19, 25), and the palmist tells us that: Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning” (Ps 30, 5). So brethren, surely, God will not fail you because he says: “I am Yahweh who heals you” (Ex 15, 26).

In our second reading today, Paul strongly expressed his willingness to preach the gospel. He said: “Curse upon me if I do not preach the gospel!” The story of Paul is like the story of a man who after surviving a disease, decided to dedicate the rest of his life in search of a cure f the disease and also, in caring for those suffering from the same disease. Again, he is like a doctor who discovered a vaccine for Ebola, Chikungunya, Chickenpox, Malaria, High Blood Pressure, Sickle Cell Anemia, HIV AIDS, etcetera, and vowed to offer it free of charge to all the patients. Paul was sick spiritually until he divinely encountered the healing power of Christ. This became the turning point in his life. So as a healed man who knows what it means to be sick, he burns with zeal in order to make sure that others do not suffer from the same sickness. The Doctor that healed him was Jesus Christ. The medicines that healed him were the name, the precious blood and, the good news of Jesus Christ. He took the full dose of these and was healed, transformed and empowered. He realized that: There is no other name by which man shall be saved except through that name Jesus (Acts 4, 12) and, that “Whoever calls upon that name shall be saved” (Acts 2, 21). So, by placing a curse on himself, Paul declared “a state of emergency” on souls and nations that are infermed and need the healing power of Jesus Christ to recover. My dear friends, what we must learn from Paul today, is that the good news of Jesus Christ brings healing, deliverance and empowerment. If we have been healed and delivered by Christ, we must like Paul become fountains of healing to others. So if you have been touched and healed, heal and touch someone else. This is what Paul also means by: “…I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and still do this for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessing.” The more we heal souls through the good news the more we too are healed.

The gospel of this Sunday recounts how Jesus went about healing, delivering and empowering people. First, Jesus healed the mother of Simon Peter of her infirmity (fever). As soon as she was healed, she on her on part cured them of their hunger by feeding them. That is what Mark means by: “…And she began to wait on them.” Jesus preached, healed and delivered people from all kinds of infirmities, and problems. There was no one who encountered him with faith that he did not heal. This is important! If Jesus must heal us, we too must have faith in him. If the good news must liberate us, we must have faith in Christ.  The power of Jesus is still the same today, and he is ready to heal those who come to him in faith, those who are ready to wait on him, those who are ready to humble and open up to him, and those who are willing endure until they have encountered him. It does not matter how long you have been sick, how long have been abandoned or who has abandoned you. Like my friend who was touched and transformed after forty seven years, it does not matter how long you have been stubborn or strayed from him. It does not matter what the reports or odds against us are. All we need is Patience, Hope, and Faith in Jesus Christ who is abundantly able to deliver those who trust in him. Therefore let us praise the Lord who heals our broken hearts.”

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!