HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: OURS WAS THE CURSE HE CARRIED
BY: Fr. Christian Eze
First reading – Lev. 13:1-2.44-46 Second reading – 1 Cor. 10:31–11:1 Gospel – Mk1:40-45
In Jesus’ days, leprosy was one of the most horrifying, incurable diseases. Leprosy was still seen as a curse and punishment from Yahweh as it was in the Old Testament. People who had the disease were not allowed to come out in the public. They were forced by law to live in leper colonies. Lepers were shunned, rejected and sadly separated from non-leprous family members. We can understand why in the gospel of Lk 17:11-12, the ten lepers (in colony) met Jesus at the border town. They were “quarantined” and they had to live outside the town. And when they saw Jesus, they did not get closer; rather, they stood at a distance shouting “Jesus Son of David, take pity on us”. This owes to the first reading of today from the book of Leviticus – “…as long as the disease lasts, he [the leper] …must live apart: he must live outside the camp” (Lev. 13:46).
Now here came a leper kneeling before Jesus to implore His mercy in these words “if you are willing, you can cure me”. He was very sure that Jesus was capable of making him well again. What he doubted was whether Jesus too would observe the custom that sees lepers as outcasts. Already, he had gone against the law by getting closer to Jesus when he was supposed to stay off at a distance to shout like the other ten lepers. At this point, everyone else may have given way, abandoning him to Jesus. But Jesus would not abandon him like every other person. So He said: “Yes, I am willing, be cured”. He not only spoke, He stretched out His hands and touched the leper who was supposed to be unclean.
Jesus never rejects anyone who comes to him. In your leprous situations, I mean that which has alienated you from others, all your rejections; Jesus is the only one who is ever willing to welcome, nay, and also make you qualify to count among those who matter. He did this by His work on the cross. The great mystery of the cross is that Jesus chose to become the accursed so that we would be free. He chose to become the leper, the unclean, so that we would be clean. The Prophet Isaiah said exactly: “…ours were the sufferings He bore, ours the sorrows He carried…on Him lies the punishment that brings us peace, and through His wounds, we are healed” (Is 53:4-5). All it takes is for us to shun whatever barrier and be bold to come close to him like the leper who shunned every dictates of the law. He will not turn us back, and He will put a smiling face on us.