Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear All,

This Sunday’s Gospel from Mark is about healing.  We know that Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels, yet it contains the most miracles.  Christ was being followed by a huge crowd.  As He approached a town, a desperate man broke through the mob 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 with foul smelling sores around nose, lips, toes, etc.  The Jews looked upon leprosy not so much as a physical disease but a spiritual uncleanness, as we heard in the First Reading from the Book of Leviticus.  The leper carried both physical wounds and the conviction that God hated him.  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 Jesus 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?  We can confidently  answer, yes.  Now, we may ask, 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?

This story tells us that Jesus is 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 tells us that such a statement is incorrect in the realm of God.  The mystics tell us God will forgive us not because of who we are but because of who He is.  “If you wish, you can make me clean."  The leper's gut plea is uttered in just eight words.  When we are in pain we have time only for the essentials. Today's account tells us that Jesus touched the leper’s running sores. Can we 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.  This miracle is called by scholars an action miracle.  It happened instantaneously, “I do will it. Be made clean." This is unlike other miracles in Mark at which Jesus 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 rituals.  This fellow's misery had to be terminated immediately.  

One more observation we may take to heart.  The cured man taught us how to pray.  His prayer needed only eight words: “If you want to, you can cure me."  Jesus shows fondness for short prayers. We hear Jesus in Matthew 6:7 giving us practical directions, "In your prayers do not use a lot of meaningless words...", brief prayers bring quick answers.

A complete text of the readings at:

With God’s Love and Blessings,


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