Homily – Fr. Anton – 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2/11/18 – Hope

The Gospel Mark 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 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.

After the Gospel:
One thing about this leper, he was sure disobedient!   Jesus told him what
NOT to do, and he went right out and did it anyway!  He never would’ve
made a good monk!

Another thing we know, because he was a leper, is that he had the most
miserable of lives.
Not only the physical ravages to his body, but the isolation it imposed,
the emptiness of his life… he was condemned to forever live apart,
outside of healthy people.
From the Book of Leviticus, we heard five verses selected from over 100
addressing leprosy…
the saddest,  worst,  most-hated disease in the Bible.
You couldn’t hide it … it was a skin disease, governed by a lot of
regulations.

A leper had to go around with unkempt hair,
face –  all but his eyes – covered with a white cloth,
wear torn clothes, clanging a  bell,
calling out: “Unclean!  Unclean!” to anyone who approached,
staying 100 yards away from healthy people,
never going near synagogue or marketplace.
He had to live outside the camp, away from people,
which meant living apart from his family, wife, children.
He was an “untouchable”:     no more hugs or embraces, no more kisses.
The rabbis taught that if a leper so much as poked his head through a
doorway,   the whole house had to be declared unclean.

The group he ate and slept with were all suffering from leprosy.  Every
face he saw was a leprous face, constant reminders of where he was going.

What did he think of, how did he pray … living as an outcast …
isolated, abandoned, feared, cursed??
How many nights did he shake his fist at the sky, and cry out: “Why me,
Lord? What did I do to deserve this?”   Maybe even wish for death as he
listened for a reply that never came.

But doesn’t God do his work in roundabout ways and answer when least
expected…
Somehow the leper heard the word  getting around about Jesus of Nazareth,
what Jesus  did in Capernaum …
How he healed Simon’s mother-in law…
that same evening, half the town showed up, bringing everyone who was sick
or possessed with demons.   And so many were healed!

For the first time, the leper felt the tiniest spark of hope that
something could change his fate.
His mind went racing in all directions:
Is Jesus able to help me?
Is He willing to help me?
Should I go to him?   Of course it’s reckless. Of course it’s risky.

Either he’ll see me coming, yell out and run away … tell them to stone
me and kill me,
or … he’ll listen and heal me.  What else can I do?  What can I lose?

Such were his thoughts.
He came to Jesus more as a defiant man, moved not so much by faith but by
a desperate anger.
God had brought this tragedy on his body … now he could either fix it or
end it.

Ignoring all their protests, the leper hurriedly  rushed up to Jesus,
fell down on his knees, face to the ground, as a servant would before a
king, pleading:
“If you are willing, you have the power to make me clean.”

Just looking at him, Jesus was filled with pity.
He instinctively reached down, touched him, and said:  “I am willing.”
Against all their  taboos, Jesus actually stretched out His hand and
touched him!
I wouldn’t have done it, you wouldn’t have done it!
But Jesus did.   He touched the leper, got dirty!
…Identified with the man’s need, stooped down to a  poor leper…
so unworthy of the touch of a man, yet so worthy of the touch of God.

Then, to  brush  aside any question of His power to cleanse,  Jesus
commanded emphatically: “Be made clean. ”

And His will became  reality.    Immediately, the leprosy left him, he was
cured completely, given his life back!     He was a man again!

Whereupon  Jesus did something curious: Told him to go quietly and show
himself to the priest,
do everything the Law of Moses commanded…
but not spread it all over that he had been healed by Jesus.
We don’t really know why … he would have to walk 70 miles all the way
from Galilee to Jerusalem, passing how many people, with good news
bursting inside him!
Perhaps Jesus  wanted to avoid  curiosity seekers that the news would draw.
Perhaps he thought  the crowds would seek him out  only for healings,
not to hear his real message,  that he came to heal and save their souls.
Perhaps, since all approval must come from Jerusalem,
Jesus wanted this former leper to be a convincing testimony to the priests
in the temple that he had been healed by Jesus’ power,   that Jesus is the
Messiah!
so they could see   Jesus upheld the Law of Moses,
He had not come to be a rebel, but to fulfil the Law.

Unfortunately, in the end, these same  priests would decide otherwise on
the validity of Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah.  At Passover, a few years
later, they would all scream
“Away with him!  Crucify him!”        But on this day, through the
powerful witness of this former leper, Jesus offered them ample evidence.

My brothers and sisters, as we think about the leper,
it’s easy to reflect back  on  our own lives.
Can’t we say the same thing?
We’ve all had our calamity …  shaken  our fist, cried out, “Why me???”

But didn’t  God intersect with our life to show us his great compassion?
Didn’t  we feel  God reach out and touch us,
give us new life,  make us clean, help us start over?
… as though  God is in the business of stooping down,
going  to great lengths to give us something we couldn’t buy,
didn’t deserve,
perhaps didn’t pray for …
All because he loves us,
even if he must get dirty in the process,
even if he must pay the price on the Cross.

That’s the report we should be spreading  abroad.  How can we keep silent
either??