Homily 6th Sunday Ordinary Time – 11th February 2024

Homily 6th Sunday Ordinary Time – 11th February 2024

This first reading today is a few verses from the Old Testament book of Leviticus, one of the books of the Mosaic Law. And it lays out the process of diagnosing and quarantining cases of Leprosy, a process that was followed not only among the Hebrews but among many nations.

Leprosy was a fearsome disease, highly contagious and fatal. And to separate the infected from the healthy, no doubt did a good bit to control the spread of the disease. Still, there were a good many other diseases, even more fatal, more common, and more contagious tan leprosy – tuberculosis, smallpox etc. But people who suffered from these were not made to cover their faces, wear a bell, leave the camp, and warn away anyone who might come nearby yelling out their uncleanliness. In the literature of so many cultures, leprosy was so uniquely despised, it was worse than contagious, even worse than fatal…it was ugly. It was not easy to be compassionate towards a leper. It was much easier to be disgusted, to be repulsed.

It seems to me that in this Gospel reading, that even before the leper was healed, Christ had worked his miracle simply by reaching out and touching the man.

In a place of disgust, Christ put compassion. The real manifestation of God’s power in this is not that one sick person is made healthy, but rather in the fact that a person universally help to be repulsive, unlovable, even evil, is in fact loved, is the object of God’s mercy and compassion.

And that is a miracle indeed. A miracle that heals not only leprosy, but heals as well human fear, human prejudice, human inability to love where and when the need is greatest.

Because of its ugliness, leprosy became for the Hebrew, and so many others, a symbol of everything that is ugly and frightening and evil. Human beings have always found a peculiar sort of satisfaction in lumping together all their anxiety and fear and disgust, and destroying it, banishing it from camp, burying it. Thinkers over the years have even proposed that we can’t really chase away that ugliness because it is in us. One has only to read some of the ugliness that is on display on social media these days. What we really fear is ourselves, the ugliness, the deformity that is in each of us.

So, as always, it is Jesus Christ who gathers up for us in himself all of these half-formed insights and gives them clear and forceful expression in the real lives of real people. That is how fear is overcome. That is how the broken and the weak are made whole and strong. The leper brough the dark and frightening side of his nature, and laid it out before Christ. And so for us, we must as confidently as the leper, bring our tears and failings to Christ, and with the same words, as his, ‘if you will it, you can heal it.’

Christ’s answer will be for us as it was then; ‘Of course I will. Be healed.’