Homily – Fr. James Conner 2/14/21

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – B  -2021

“If you will, you can make me clean”. With these simple words the leper shows that he knows who this Jesus is. He knows that he can do whatever he wills. No evil, whether physical or mental or spiritual is too great for him. All that he has to do is will it. For his part, Jesus recognizes this as a man of faith. It may be a man who is considered as unclean according to the Law, and yet Jesus recognizes him as a man of clean heart and mind – a man who is open and ready to receive that which only this man of God can bestow.  Hence in all simplicity Jesus responds: “I will: be clean!” Four simple words which change the course of this man’s life. He who was seen by the Law as unclean is seen by Jesus as clean. He is not only declared by the Law Giver to be clean, but is truly and wholly made clean  by the One who alone can know the heart of man. The Law had declared that one should not so much as touch a leper lest he become unclean himself. But Jesus’ response was “moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him”. The Law Giver breaks the Law in order to show pity to this poor man. And yet it was not solely out of pity. For Jesus recognizes the man’s heart as truly clean – with a cleanliness that extends to the very being of the man.

And yet Jesus tells the man “See that you say nothing to anyone; but show yourself to the priest.”  Jesus was not breaking the Old Law so much as fulfilling it. As Paul tells us in the second reading today: “whatever you do, do all for the glory of God”. We are to imitate Paul just as Paul imitates Christ. We are to look to the heart of each person rather than judge them according to the Law. We are to identify ourselves with the other person, even to the extent of taking on our self what the Law might impose on the other. In this way Jesus could no longer enter a town openly, but remained in deserted places as the Law prescribed for lepers.

Jesus made himself like a leper in order to show the extent to which he fully responds to the cry of the poor. And like him, we, as his followers, are to identify ourselves with the poor and needy of society as Pope Francis reminds us in his recent encyclical to all the churches. We are to live as imitating Jesus Christ Himself in His effort to show to all the fullness of God’s love for all and the extent to which we are called to be the very members of Christ.

In this Eucharist we are given the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We are given it precisely into our hands. But this is not simply as a means of consuming it, but as a way of allowing Jesus Christ, through our very own actions in daily life to touch the lives and hearts of all whom we encounter in our daily lives. Jesus remains today in those desolate places and situations which we saw expressed in yesterday’s movie. Jesus calls for each one of us to bring Him, His Life and His Love, into the very turmoil of daily life in order that He can express to all: “I will; be clean”.

Jesus calls each one of us to strive to respond in our daily lives as He does in this day’s gospel. And so to be truly imitators of Jesus Christ to whom our lives have been given through our Baptism and through our monastic profession. It is now up to each one of us to verify what we have promised – starting from this moment.

Today is more universally known as “Valentine Day” = a day when we express love for one another not because of what they have done, but simply because of who each is.