Through His Mercy, Christ Heals And Restores Us
Readings: 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 Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico. He is the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canóvanas, and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Fr. Canice is a member of the Academy of Homiletics. For more details and comments contact him at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
On this 6th Sunday, the church continues to remind us that Jesus is a friend of all. So, He is willing to do the unimaginable to save us. Hence, the church calls us to make Jesus our role model by caring for the sick.
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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 such as Ebola, Zika, HIVAIDS and the Corona Virus which has killed many and paralyzed our world today. Contacting leprosy was a matter of life and death. Though it was a physical sickness, according to Jewish religious beliefs leprosy was broadly associated with sin. That is, leprosy was a punishment for a sin committed by its victim.
Hence, the immediate consequence of suffering from leprosy was that the patient automatically becomes an outcast and isolated. “As long as the disease lasts, the patient must live apart.” This is because it was believed that the person would 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? 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, because of our sins we are all lepers and outcasts. However, Christ touches and heals us through his mercy.
In the second reading, Paul implores us, “Take me as your model as I take Christ.” He presents himself to us as a model of sacrifice and care. Being a model means being close to people, especially in their weakness, sickness, and ensuring that they do not feel rejected. He is a model that rejects the gospel of exclusion, favoritism, racial segregation, profiling, stigmatization of the sick or anyone at all.
He is not a model that wishes the death of the sick for his comfort. Instead, He 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 advantage, but for the advantage of everybody, so that they may be saved.” This is precisely 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 savior and master, Jesus responded with both words and actions: “!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 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!