Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

6th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: HEALING OF THE LEPER

Mk 1:40-45


A FEW YEARS ago, I had watched a CNN documentary entitled, “Where Have All the Parents Gone”. The said documentary focused on more than a million orphans in Africa in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. The parents had died and the responsibility of caring the orphans has been given to the heroic grandmothers. These grandmothers are now old, and yet they have to raise their grandchildren, because their own children have died of AIDS. Thus, there goes the question: 'Where have all the parents gone?' If we go to Asia, Thailand has also a high number of people with AIDS. Our missionary has worked for children or orphans who have been also afflicted with the disease. Our missionary shared a moving story of a small girl who recounted the death of her parents. And then she said, “I am also dead now. I know sooner, I will also die and follow where my parents have gone to.”

During the time of Jesus, there was a dreadful disease called leprosy. The life or situation of a leper was something miserable. Once a person is sick with it, it would mean an end of his social life. Why? Because, he is compelled to withdraw from the community or society. It would be miserable because a person loses his worth. He would lose family ties, friends, and even occupation.

In the gospel passage, we have heard how Jesus treated the leper who came to Him begging for help. Let us go over the moments of the gospel once again.

Firstly, let us look at the attitude of Jesus toward the leper. The gospel says, “Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’” Thus, Jesus responded with compassion and pity. While people during his days did not show concern to the lepers, the attitude of Jesus was exactly the opposite. His compassion to the plight of the leper moved him to heal the leper. Pity can be seen in this respect as a divine attitude. It is an attitude of God. But it is also an attitude that we humans should also imitate. If we encounter people who also come to us begging for help, we shall also respond with compassion and pity.

Secondly, on the part of the leper, we can surmise how desperate he was because of the disease that he has had. Thus, his encounter with Jesus was really that important because that would mean a change; or a new life for him. When he approached Jesus, he said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” That was an expression of faith, that indeed Jesus can heal him. And it suddenly happened.

What is the consequence of the healing or cleansing? The healing was a way of regaining his lost worth as person. His healing was a restoration of social relationship. For years, he experienced the pain of “alienation” from the society caused by the horrible sickness. The healing was a kind of regaining what was lost in him. He now becomes whole again. He becomes again a “person” worthy of respect and love.

The attitude of Jesus is something we shall take into account in relation to people who are seriously ill. Leprosy is no longer a dreadful disease in our time. But there are new sicknesses or illnesses that we feel helpless about because science and medicine cannot offer yet a solution to these. And the people who are afflicted by these, find themselves in a difficult situation because their movements have become limited. At times, they become lonely. And in these situations, we can also apply the attitude of Jesus, that is, compassion to the sick.

We can understand why “visiting the sick” is one of the corporal works of mercy and how important it is for us Christians. It is a work or apostolate that Christians shall be involved with. It is a test of compassion and pity. It is an occasion for us feel how the sick people feel, and in that way, we can bring also consolation to them. AMEN.


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