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Sixth Sunday In Ordinary Times (6B), Feb. 12, 2012
By Fr. John J. Ludvik
We’re having a Clean Up day at St. Aloysius next weekend and much has already been accomplished at Lourdes. In both places, it will remain a work in progress after our snow, ice, rain, wind and winter storms.
If we want to position ourselves somewhere within today’s gospel, we need to know that when the Bible talks about lepers, the term refers not only to people with a terrible disease. In biblical times, “leprosy” referred to any type of mold or blemish.
It didn’t matter if the mold or blemish was on a person’s skin or on a donkey’s saddle. The condition referred to in the Bible was that of any sort of visible defect, whether on human skin, on the walls of houses, or on fabrics and leather.
So, let’s be accurate about the historical reality presented in today’s passage. Biblical leprosy could mean something as life-threatening as Hanson’s disease or melanoma or as superficial as dandruff or a rash or a case of acne. The term refers to any disorder that shows up on the surface, that is, a place where it is obvious for all to see.
Today’s passage is asking us to take a look at what Christ can do for us when our imperfections and defects and blemishes suddenly appear in the public eye for everyone to see. We are all profoundly blemished. We might try to hide our imperfections, but all the make-up in the world won’t cover them up.
Our public blemishes aren’t always physical, but they’re always embarrassing. Here are examples:
* A young man takes a girl out on a date…and his car drops its muffler in her dad’s driveway.
• Fifteen minutes into the sales presentation…and you realize the profitability graph that you set on the easel…is upside down.
• You speak up at a meeting…and the chairperson dresses you down.
* You are the lector and start reading the wrong scripture.
• Or do something stupid, really stupid, and your name ends up in the paper.
These are examples of our blemishes going public. An internal response occurs when this happens . It’s called embarrassment, it’s called shame.
And there is an external reaction on the of others around you. They begin to put distance between themselves and you. And that experience called being discounted; it’s called being “put in your place.” It’s an old story and it happens in every society: people draw lines, build a wall, shut others out.
Sometimes people are ostracized because of something they’ve done. Other times it has nothing to do with anything they’ve done as in the case with the leper in today’s gospel story.
Regardless of the circumstance, the result is the same: alienation. And it takes a concerted effort to break to social barrier and cross the divide that separates you from others. Once you rise above the judgments of others knowing that only God’s opinion about you matters is an incredible experience of liberation.
Getting back to the gospel, perhaps this “incredible liberation” is the reason Jesus felt it necessary to impress upon the leper the desire that the leper not broadcast news about the miracle far and wide. Today’s event occurred, you see, in the early part of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus knew that people would likely misread his compassion for the sick and mistake his mission as nothing more than that of a miracle worker.
But, in reality, Jesus mission was to save the world, not simply cure the sick. I’m sure Jesus knew that this leper would struggle to contain his exuberance after so wonderful an event. Not only was the physical symptom eradicated, he was restored to the community.
Think of it, he could talk to people! He could give someone a hug! He could drape his arm around the shoulder of his best friend. And maybe it had been 3 years, 5 years, 10 years since he was able to do so! It must have been like coming out of prison so, yes, it was hard, real hard for that person to keep quiet.
This exuberance, it seems to me, is an important part of God’s revelation to us this morning.
You see, the healing that Christ offers is never just an eradication of some surface blemish, it’s a transformation of your spirit, a transformation that allows you to go back on the street,
back to work, back to church and back to the family reunion with your head held high.
Now that’s a lesson to take home with you today. No outer blemish, no embarrassing failure no sinful mistake no feeling of guilt or shame is going to keep Christ from reaching out to you and touching you. Nothing will keep him from forgiving you and restoring you to the community, your family and those you love.
I also hope that many of you will assists in the Cleanup at the Church next weekend as it is an eyesore. There are many blemishes. Many hands make less work.