Feb. 11, 2018

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Some biblical scholars have noted that the Law of Moses had practical benefits for those who observed it. Dietary laws, as well as those dealing with illness and contagion, may well have contributed to Israel’s thriving and prosperity as God’s Chosen People because they anticipated modern practices of personal and medical hygiene. One of these was the practice of quarantining people like the leper in today’s Gospel who were presumed to be contagious.

The safety of the community, however, came at a high price to those who suffered such disfiguring illnesses — loneliness and isolation. In approaching the Lord, the afflicted man violates the Law, and by engaging him, Jesus in turn renders himself ritually unclean. Maybe that is why the man comes to Jesus with obvious humility (“If you wish ...”), but he also comes with strong faith (“you can make me clean”). Jesus’ actions speak louder than words. He reaches out and touches the afflicted man, saying simply, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy leaves the man.

Many of the skin diseases described in the Leviticus reading can be healed today with antibiotics or other treatments. But there are still plenty of contemporary ailments that can make people feel like lepers — alone and hopeless. One young woman recounts how an unwanted pregnancy at the age of 16 led her to seek an abortion. She writes: “Emotionally, I was unable to process, cope or handle the trauma of having an abortion, and unconsciously I buried that day [of the procedure] deep in my mind. ... But, the pain grew, and because I didn’t know how to handle it, I masked it with anything that I could, creating new unhealthy habits and dependencies. By the age of 22, I was heavily addicted to opiates ... tired of fighting and hiding.” Happily, she was able to resist the temptation to suicide and instead begged God for help. She entered a recovery program. “There,” she recalls with gratitude, “I was able to get the healing and care that I desperately needed and was able to restore my relationship with Jesus.”

“Having come to earth to announce and to realize the salvation of the whole man and of all people, Jesus ... is revealed as the doctor both of souls and of bodies, the Good Samaritan of man. He is the true savior: Jesus saves; Jesus cures; Jesus heals.”

Pope Francis, Angelus message, Feb. 8, 2015

Homily Helps for the January issue were written by FATHER DAN RUFF, SJ, who teaches homiletics as an adjunct faculty member at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, and is a full-time member of the campus ministry staff at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.