Through His Mercy, Christ Heals And Restores Us
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 with the Spiritan International Group of Puerto Rico & Dominican Republic. He is the Administrator of Parroquia La Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Chancellor of the Diocesis of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
On this 6th Sunday, the church continues to remind us that Jesus is the friend of all. So, He is willing to do the unimaginable in order to save us. Hence, the church calls us to make Jesus our role model by caring for the sick.
Our first reading and gospel have a lot in common. Both of them referred to the hopeless situation caused by leprosy. In Jesus’s time, leprosy was a dreaded disease like: Ebola, Zika, or HIVAIDS of our time. Contacting leprosy was a matter of life and death. Though it was a physical sickness, according to Jewish religious beliefs, leprosy was greatly associated with sin. That is, leprosy was a punishment for a sin committed by its sufferer.
Hence, the immediate consequence of suffering from leprosy was that the patient automatically becomes an outcast: “As long as the disease lasts…he must live apart.” This is because, it was believed that the person will contaminate others. Sadly, according to the law, the victim must identify and stigmatize himself by announcing: ‘unclean, unclean.”
Is this different from the stigma we subject people to, today? In fact, it seems that more sick people die due to stigma, than from the actual disease they suffered. Yet, the truth is that apart from physical leprosy, through sin, we are all lepers and outcasts. Yet, through his mercy, Christ touches and heals us.
In the second reading, Paul implores us: “Take me as your model as I take Christ.” It a model of sacrifice and care for others. It is being close to people especially in their weakness, sickness, and ensuring that they do not feel rejected. It is a model that rejects the gospel of exclusion, favoritism, racial segregation, or stigma on the sick or anyone at all.
It is not a model that wish the death of the sick for our comfort. Rather it is a model of care, tenderness and love for them. 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, so that they may be saved.” This is exactly what Christ did. He offered himself in order to deliver us from all that enslaves us. Paul replicated this with his life, and encourages us to do the same.
In the gospel, Jesus continues to heal. Today, He encountered a leper. Instead of avoiding or stigmatizing the leper, he touched and healed him. The humble petition of the leper touched him: “If you want, you can cure me.” As a compassionate saviour and master, Jesus responded with both words and action: “! Of course, I want to, be cured!”
By healing the leper, Jesus makes a statement, that the leper was not excluded, but that he was equally destined for salvation. Jesus was different from the Levitical priests whose duty was to pronounce judgment, stigmatize and to isolate the leper. On the contrary, He communicated the love and mercy of God in signs that speak more than words.
How should we treat the sick, the weak, the poor, and those rejected by society? We must show them mercy, and help them as Jesus did. Through His mercy and compassion, Jesus is always ready to free us from whatever makes us unclean. Therefore, let us praise him: “You are my refuge, O Lord; you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Peace be with you!