6TH SUNDAY: HOMILY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B]
THEME: The Healing Encounter with Jesus
BY: Fr. Luke Ijezie
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1;
Being a Christian means being in enduring encounter with Jesus. Without this basic encounter, the Christian life remains shallow, superficial. It is the encounter that empowers us and makes us whole. Jesus meets us in our broken condition and restores us to wholeness. This is what healing means. Healing is a repairment of brokenness and restoration of wholeness. This happens both for the sinner and the sick person. Healing has always been at the centre of human quests given the ever present reality of disease and sickness. In the Bible the state of sinfulness is often likened to the state of sickness as both express the experience of brokenness, whether caused by sin or sickness. We find this abundantly in the readings of today.
1. The first reading from Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46 presents the terrible lot of one who suffers the disease of leprosy. In the Bible, leprosy ranks as the worst sickness as it brings about the worst form of brokenness. The leprous person suffers not only the loss of physical wholeness, he is ostracised from both the civil society and the religious community. He goes about with the degrading tag of being unclean and being avoided. So the leper was socially and psychologically like one already dead. Healing is like bringing back to life. This is what happens to the leper in the Gospel of today as he meets the great Healer, Jesus.
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2. In the Gospel from Mark 1:40-45, the healing of the leper teaches us the great power in the encounter with Jesus. The text narrates the progressive levels of the encounter. The first step is the courageous and humble approach to ask for help. The leper kneels and pleads, putting himself at the mercy of the will of Jesus: “If you will, you can heal me.” He knows Jesus can do it, but he wants the will of Jesus to be done not his own. Of course, Jesus will not ignore such humility. His compassion takes over and the leper receives instant healing. The second approach is to meet the priest and get restored to the human community. The interesting thing in this story is that the encounter with Jesus comes first before the full integration into the community. One must first meet Jesus the healer, get healed, receive physical and spiritual wholeness before full restoration to the community. Significantly, this is what the text teaches at the end. People from all around now abandon the normal community and come to meet Jesus in the deserted place. What are they looking for? Wholeness and no more! It is from the encounter that they will derive the healing and wholeness to reenter the community. What a story! What the leper experiences from Jesus is what the whole crowd now comes to experience. All are in need of healing and wholeness. It is from Jesus, it is from God that we derive the strength and wholeness to function in the community. This is the great message of the text.
3. Once we realise that our wholeness comes from God, then all we do in the community is for His glory, in whatever we do. Paul says it clearly in the second reading from 1Cor 10:31-11:1 as he admonishes all to live as God’s own people, being in harmony with one another, helping people and never doing anything for selfish motives: “Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God.”
4. As long as we remain conscious of the fact that our lives belong to God, we shall always be careful of how we live. The worst thing is to forget that it is God who gives us health and wholeness of life. We live because God heals our ailments even when we never deserve it. In Jesus we meet God who declares us whole despite our sins and ailments. The responsorial psalm caps it: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is remitted. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputed no guilt, in whose spirit is no guile” (Ps 32:1-2).
May this ever Compassionate God continue to give us the health and wholeness we need to function optimally in the society! Happy Sunday!
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