President John F Kennedy invited a bishop to give an
invocation. The prayer was endless. Later, a smiling
President Kennedy asked a guest, “Did you hear that
bishop’s speech to God?” There is irony in today’s Gospel.
Jesus tells the cured man to tell no one of the miracle.
The fellow cannot contain himself. He tells everyone.
Yet in Matthew 28,19, Jesus tells us to tell everyone about Him. What do we do? That’s right. We tell no one. We should bring back the former leper. He was a better public relations person than we. Or we should become like the bishop. As the scene opens, Jesus is walking out of the Galilean mountains. He has delivered His famous sermon on the Beatitudes. He is about to take off the academic gown and hood of the scholar and put on the mantle of the miracle worker. Though Mark’s Gospel is the shortest, it contains the most miracles. Christ was being followed by a huge mob. As He approached a town, a desperate man broke through the crowd and painfully got to his knees before Jesus. The crowd ran away in horror. The fellow was our unnamed leper. Leprosy was a common disease in Palestine. In its late stages, the illness is a bad scene.
Substitute foul smelling sores for nose, lips, toes, etc, and one has the picture. The Jews looked upon leprosy not so much as a physical disease but a spiritual uncleanness. The leper carried both physical wounds and the conviction that God hated him. Talk about poor self-image! Jewish law was harsh to lepers. They had to live outside towns. If they came upon a clean person, they had to ring a bell and shout, “Leper, leper.” The historian Josephus wrote they “were, in effect, dead men.” Imagine the courage of this fellow! The law stated if a leper exposed others to his disease, he was to be stoned to death. Lucky for him that the people around the Teacher were so anxious to get away from the scene. Otherwise they might have well stoned him to death. Would Jesus have put Himself between them and the stones? With you, I answer yes.
A question rises. How did the leper sense that the Christ would not flee in revulsion with everyone else? What quality did he discern in Him that told him Jesus would hold His ground? Mark here is telling us much about Jesus. He signals us He was most approachable. We discover He has time for those whom others consider human garbage. One hears people say, “My sin is so horrible not even God could forgive it.” This Gospel gives the lie to such a statement. The mystics tell us God will forgive us not because of who we are but because of who He is. “If you want to, you can cure me.”
The leper’s gut plea is couched in just eight words. People in pain do not speak in pages. They have time only for the essentials. Today’s account tells us that the Teacher cured the fellow before Him and touched his running sores. Can anyone here imagine what that stroking must have felt like to the leper? Probably it was the first time in years that someone who was clean placed a hand upon him. If one picture is worth a thousand words, one touch must be worth ten thousand to a leper. Is there anyone here who is still frightened of Jesus the Christ? This miracle is called by scholars an action miracle. It happened in a nanosecond. This is unlike other miracles in Mark. There the Teacher takes the man aside, looks to the heavens, sighs, puts spittle on the man’s ear, etc. But here the Nazarene felt there was no time for preliminaries.
This fellow’s misery had to be terminated immediately. What does that tell you about the Person whom you worship? Would that we could teach ourselves to have just a fraction of that compassion. Though we may not have a healing ministry, each of us can practice a hearing ministry. Suffering people need to talk. Walt Whitman wrote, “Seeing a wounded soldier on the battlefield, I do not ask who he is. I become the wounded man.” So should it be with us. One who is Christ-centered instead of self-centered, said GK Chesterton, is a sane person in an insane world. One final note! The cured man taught us how to pray. His prayer needed only eight words. Jesus showed fondness for short prayers.
Check Matthew 6:7, “In your prayers do not use a lot of meaningless words…” Jesus is e-mailing us the information that brief prayers bring quick answers.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
February 15, 2015
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—February 15, 2015
What can we learn today from a leper who kneels before Jesus in the hope of being healed?
Gospel (Read Mk 1:40-45)
We know from our reading of St. Mark’s Gospel that as Jesus began His public ministry, He drew large crowds (see Mk 1:28, 33, 37). Today, we meet a leper who had apparently seen or heard enough about Jesus to make him take a bold action. Jewish law kept lepers away from the worshiping community, because the leprosy made them ritually unclean, unable to participate in the liturgical life of Israel. This can be difficult for us, in our day, to understand. In the Law of Moses, in order to teach the people about God’s holiness—a lesson they desperately needed in order to be His chosen people—they had to learn in simple, obvious ways that God is Life Itself, pure goodness, perfect justice.
Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Unclean No More
When I visit a hospital or a nursing home, I often will come upon a room that with a warning on the door. It will say, “Infection. All visitors must check with nurses station and then use mask, gloves and gown.” When I did this for a while, I became use to “gowning up.” I had to feel bad for the poor patient though. It made them seem like an outcast to society, but at least our society has found a way for the rest of us to care for them.
Pope Francis and the Hidden Path to Holiness
Five years ago the Catholic Church had a Year of the Priest, and now Pope Francis has declared a Year of Consecrated Life. To mark this year, he has issued an Apostolic Letter, building upon Vatican II’s decree on religious life, Perfectae Caritatis (1965), and St. John Paul II’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata (1996). While everyone seems to have a concept of the priestly ideal, the unique charism of consecrated life, especially for men, is more obscure. In particular, religious brothers tend to have lower profiles than do priests and nuns.
Don’t Waste Your Lent: 7 Ways to Have a Good Lent
Lent is a season of penance and ascetical warfare. The enemy is concupiscence, the world, and the devil. The goal is pure hearts so that we can joyfully celebrate the resurrection of our Lord at Easter, the greatest feast of the liturgical year. In a way, Lent should be a microcosm of our entire struggle on earth, just as the Paschal feast of Easter is a microcosm of our heavenly triumph in Christ. Yet, a good Lent takes focus and discipline, and it can easily be wasted.