HOMILY FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: DIVINE RESTORATION
BY: Fr. Gerald Musa
The skin is a complex organ, which is carefully, and creatively designed by God and so we ought to do our best to take good care of it. No doubt, we sometimes exaggerate skin care by spending an incredible amount of money on all kinds of sophisticated cosmetics for tonning, tanning, bleaching, sunscreening, etc. Perhaps we do this to satisfy an innate desire to have a flawless, stainless, perfect and unblemished skin.
And so, skin diseases are among the things we dread most. Therefore, we can understand why the Jews kept lepers far away in order to avoid what they consider as the most dreadful and disgraceful skin disease. The Old Testament contains an interesting story of Naaman the Syrian commander who had strength, talent and wealth, but was afflicted with the disease of leprosy. In the New Testament Jesus recounts the story of a poor beggar named Lazarus, who had some terrible skin disease as his body was covered with sores to the extent that dogs were licking them.
The Jews consider lepers as unclean and so are unfit to live and interact with other people. Moses had declared to the people: “If someone has on his skin a scab or postule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy…the Priest shall declare him unclean…He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp” (cf. Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46). In the days of Moses, lepers were removed from their families and from the larger community. Some modern day societies have what is called Lepers’ Colonies, which are exclusive settlements for lepers.
Today, lepers and those living with HIV/AIDS are not the only ones rejected and ignored by society, but also those who have some mental or physical challenges, ex-convicts, illiterates, single mothers, fat/obese people, drug addicts, alcoholics, divorcees and those critically sick. Some others are considered social outcasts because of their race, socio-economic status, religion, age, caste, family name or background, ethnic group, nationality, immigration status, etc.
Furthermore, people who live in ghettos in modern cities are socially excluded and live in a world of their own where basic infrastructure and other social amenities are lacking. Genesis 16:12 describes the social condition of a social outcast: “And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
Outcasts and marginalised people in our society need acceptance, understanding and compassion and not our harsh judgment and condemnation. Jesus had a very positive and encouraging attitude towards social and spiritual outcasts. He had a way of inviting them, including them, supporting them, empowering them, and most importantly, restoring their dignity and confidence.
The Leper who was ostracized, marginalized and excluded by his family and people came to Jesus and humbly requested, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” Jesus generously responded, “I want to, be clean.” Jesus healed him immediately and by doing so, Jesus restored the leper’s confidence in himself; He restored the leper’s faith in God; He restored his social image, dignity, and He restored the leper back to communion with his people.
Thus, restoration and redemption are the focus of Jesus’ mission. Restoration is the act of bringing back that, which was lost, damaged, defaced or disfigured. His mission is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, which says, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” (Joel 2:25).
How do we share in Jesus’ mission of restoration? What is our attitude towards the weak, sick and ostracized people of our modern day society? Henry Nouwen in his book Out of Solitude, wrote: “What we see, and like to see, is cure and change. But what we do not see and do not want to see is care: the participation in the pain, the solidarity in the suffering, the sharing in the experience of brokenness. And still, cure without care is as dehumanizing as a gift given with a cold heart.” The Apostle Paul invites us to be people who seek not only their benefits but the benefit, salvation, and restoration of others (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1).
Like the leper, we are also disfigured not only by our physical diseases, but also by moral and spiritual leprosy. We all stand in need of divine intervention for the restoration of out lost health, wealth, dignity, confidence and faith. We join the Psalmist in praying, “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved! (Psalm 80:19).
6th Sunday of the Year B
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45