Reflections on the Readings
Sixth Sunday In Ordinary Time - February 15th, 2009 Year B
By Dennis Hankins
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Theme: I Will
Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her...that she might be holy and without blemish. (St. Paul)
Nothing compares to being an outcast. Ask any child who has endured the enigma of being excluded by his peers. I remember to my shame of accusing certain classmates of lesser means and resources as having 'cooties.' This labeling meant to impose restrictions on that classmate to not come near.
To the shame of this great country, there was a time when people of color were subjected to sick and inhumane descriptions and treatment. Outcasts! Yet it was not sin or immoral conduct that tainted these our brothers and sisters. They were excluded because of their skin color.
Each one of us should be grateful that God sees not as man sees. For God looks upon the heart.
The Old Testament leprosy laws concerning ritual cleanness and uncleanness underscore the New Testament call for holiness 'without which no one will see the Lord.' (Hebrews 12:14) It is this desire to be clean again, that is, holy, that the Gospel today highlights.
Leprosy made the victim of leprosy unfit to join the worshipping community. Relegated to the outskirts of society, the leper simply waited and longed for the time he could show himself to the priest and be readmitted to the fellowship of his family and friends. St. Augustine describes the 'cleansing of the leper' to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sin, like leprosy, affects the offender in his relationship not only to God, but to his family and friends. The oblique nature of the impurity of heart makes us crosswise with God and our neighbor.
The earnest Israelite would be very careful to avoid becoming ritually unclean. To touch a leper or a dead person was to become ceremonially unclean requiring a process for re-admittance to the worshipping community. You remember that Jesus took much scorn for 'eating and drinking with sinners.' According to the Pharisees, for Jesus to come near an unclean person was anathema; but to touch a leper was to be unclean himself.
So when the Master desired to make the leper clean in our story today, he willed this man's reconciliation by stretching out his hand and touching him. The touch of the Master's hand lifted Peter's mother-in-law from a sick fever. His touch restored Jairus' daughter to life. By His touch a leper was made clean.
According to the Mosaic Law, Jesus would be considered ritually unclean. It is Jesus, however, the lamb of God without spot or blemish, who through his nailed scarred hand reconciles us to God. Assuming our uncleanness He remains clean, for grace is greater than sin.
He, who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. Without becoming defiled, Christ touches us in our defilement, removing from us even the garment of sin and clothing us with the robe of righteousness. Like the prodigal son, ours is a new robe, new shoes, and the family ring on our hand.
All of this because Jesus says,
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, I was sinking deep in sin, but in the multitude of you mercies you stretched our your hands upon the cross of your humiliation and reconciled me to God. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.