13th / 14th February 2021

posted 15 Feb 2021, 05:31 by Parish Office

Homily for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The power of God is amazing! He created the whole world, indeed the whole universe. Why does the universe exist, rather than there being nothing? Because God made it. And when we examine the natural world, when we explore more deeply the physics of the laws of the universe, it is truly amazing in its depth, detail and beauty. Our knowledge of the natural world is only a fraction of all that is there. We go on discovering more of it (and we also discover we have made a few mistakes along the way), and we are truly amazed by what we find.

So at the time of Christ, medical knowledge was rather limited. Leprosy was an incurable disease. They also didn’t have completely accurate diagnoses, so sometimes other diseases were classed as leprosy as well. But because leprosy was contagious and there was no cure, the only option was isolation. We heard in the first reading that a man with leprosy must live away from everyone else, and warn others that he had leprosy by having messy hair, torn clothing, and calling out “unclean” if anyone is near by. You can imagine how people must have despaired if they were diagnosed with leprosy.

God created the world, but man ruined it by sin, but God became one of us as Jesus to restore our world. So in the Gospel, Jesus does not drive the leper away. Neither does He cure him by standing a good two metres away and wearing a mask. Instead, “he stretched out his hand and touched him”. Rather than disease being passed from the leper to Christ, healing is transmitted from Christ to the leper. He is restored, not only to health, but also to human contact. He is fully reconciled to normal society. But then here comes the twist. Jesus tells him to say nothing to anyone about his healing, but what does he do? He can’t keep quiet. As a result, Christ then takes on the form of life of a leper because of the vast crowds looking for Him: He, “could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived”. He took on the leper’s way of life, in a sense. Perhaps Captain Mainwaring might have said to the former leper, “You stupid boy!” He made things difficult for Christ. But it was also a fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah (53:4): “And yet ours were the suffering he bore, ours the sorrow he carried”.

A more modern example: back in the nineteenth century, leprosy was still incurable, and in Hawaii, a leper colony was established on the Kalaupapa Peninsula. Fr Damien discerned a call to serve them.

The leper colony was something of a dumping ground for lepers. There was very little medical care there, and people lived in despair, turning to alcohol and immorality. There was no law and order.

One of the first things Fr Damien did was to build a chapel, where he took the lepers to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. This time, they weren’t healed of their leprosy, but instead they were healed within. When they had Christ, they didn’t need to take refuge in destructive behaviour.

The place was in disorder, but through Fr Damien, Christ brought order. Fr Damien brought people together to build houses and schools, and he personally looked after the sick and gave the dead an appropriate burial. Order and routine made the place liveable.

After being there for a while, a friend wrote him a letter and asked how he was able to stay so long among the lepers. Fr Damien’s reply was, “Without my daily holy hour in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, I would not be able to have stayed here a single day”.

Christ is still among us today, and He works through His Church, which doesn’t just mean priests and religious sisters, but through you, too. But we need that food for the journey, and to be able to take refuge in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We can’t just do it all off our own bat. Well, we can try, but the results won’t be the same. If we try ordinary means, we will get ordinary results. If we want the extraordinary, then we have to go for extraordinary means, and that means we must go to Christ. Or as the first option today for the Communion Antiphon says:

“They ate and had their fill, and what they craved the Lord gave them; they were not disappointed in what they craved.” May our craving be for Him, not for any other person or thing. Then we shall not be disappointed in what we craved.