Hi everyone, thanks for stopping by. Here's my homily for the SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - Feb 15, 2015. The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/021515.cfm. I appreciate your sharing this blog on twitter, facebook, reddit and everywhere else it seems to pop up -- as well as your feedback and comments. My prayers and best wishes for everyone as we enter into the holy season of Lent this Ash Wednesday (for those here at MSU our Mass schedule is 12:15, 3:00, 5:30 & 8:15 pm in the Student Center Ballroom with confessions before and after all the Masses - more info at www.MSUNEWMAN.com) God Bless! Fr Jim
After Mass one Sunday afternoon in the city, a group of friends went to have lunch at a restaurant - some local diner. As they were sitting there, talking to each other, catching up on their weeks, enjoying their meals, they noticed a man sitting alone at a nearby table. He was an older man, he was looking a little ragged. He had finished a simple sandwich and a cup of coffee. They could see he had this anxious look as he had the bill in front of him and was frantically searching his pockets for enough dollars and change to pay for his meal. They could see that he was becoming increasingly nervous – it was obvious he wasn’t going to have enough to cover the check.
One of the friends who had gathered for the lunch got up as if to go to the restroom, and as he passed the man’s table, he leaned down, pretending like he found a $10 bill on the floor. He did it so naturally that when he offered the bill to the distracted man, the man’s whole body language changed. He started saying "Thank you – thank you so much, I was sure I had enough to cover the bill." The poor man was beaming. The friends at the table were so deeply moved by what they witnessed. Not the gift of a $10 donation, but the gift of great gentleness, great care and respect given to the man – something more valuable than the $10.
To be noticed... To be loved...
That’s what’s at the heart of tonight’s Gospel. This leper comes forward to Jesus. Think about it - we don’t even know the man’s name. And in this day and age, we don’t hear much about the disease (even though there are people who still suffer from it around the world) Leprosy is a bacterial infection of the skin, which can eventually paralyze someone and ultimately kill them. It is repulsive on many levels: people’s body parts literally decay in plain sight; there is a horrible stench associated with it; and (as if all that weren't bad enough) it is highly contagious. That's why lepers were separated from the rest of the community, and even required to wear a bell to announce there presence - so people could run away from them.
Because of all this, people afflicted with leprosy not only suffered physical pain - but imagine how alone they felt, how isolated from the rest of the world they were. The suffering in their bodies was matched by the suffering in their souls.
For this man suffering from Leprosy in the Gospel, we don’t know how long it had been since someone shook this guy’s hand, patted him on the back, put an arm around his waist, hugged him, touched his cheek, wiped a tear from his eye, or kissed him... The truth is, all those things were merely a memory as he lived in the leper colony in his cave.
In that moment, Jesus’ healing more than miraculously restores this man’s physical health. That truly is an amazing gift - but the deeper thing, the longer lasting thing, the thing that will change the lepers perspective, change his life:
To be noticed... To be loved.
Whether it’s the guy at the diner in NYC or the leper in Galilee 2,000 years ago - yes, they are both very extreme and different examples. But what unites both men, is that sense of aloneness, shame, isolation. More than likely, we can search our own memories and remember times where we can relate. Times where you felt alone, felt unloved. Moments of despair and isolation. Overwhelmed with a darkness and a despair convincing you there’s nothing that will lift it. Perhaps you’re going through one of those times right now. If that’s the case - then thank God you’re here. Because then you’re like the leper - believing in some corner of that darkened room in your heart those words "If you wish, you can make me clean." He does... He desires it. He can do it. He will do it. If we remain open, vulnerable, trusting to His presence and activity in our lives.
But we’re also meant to recognize we’re not always the leper in the story. St. Theresa of Avila once said very beautifully:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ's compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.
Do we recognize the "lepers" if they are in our sight or are they part of the background that we may not notice because of our schedule or priorities? Sometimes the healing is in the seeing. Choosing to make an effort to notice those who are hurting will in turn bring healing to our souls that may have intentionally or unintentionally distanced ourselves from them. Who needs healing more? Us or them?
Who are the "lepers" - the "unclean" among us? Who are those looking for healing? Who is it that is looking to be noticed, to be loved? Who is it wallowing in the darkness of sin, the painful isolation of sickness or disease? Who is it that the Lord is putting on our hearts right now who we know, we know that are hurting in some way that we are equipped right now in some real way to bring some healing, some relief, some love and compassion to?
Will we answer the call or turn away? Who is it that is waiting for an invitation to come to meet Christ - someone you can invite to come with you to Mass - someone who’s been away from Church and simply needs someone to show them care, show them authentic friendship to invite them...
Maybe it’s a classmate, a colleague, a relative... maybe its someone not that we’re not too close to or think about that much but that the Holy Spirit is raising in your mind right now. There’s someone he’s trying to utilize each and everyone of us to bring the power of His love, His life, His light into the deepest, darkest recesses of their souls. Not to solve all their problems. And definitely not to enable them and keep them in their same places of suffering. Rather to proclaim to them that they are noticed - that they are loved - with a true, authentic love. They "the lepers" of the world are crying out to you and I - if you wish, you can make it clean. Do we?