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Ordinary Time 6 (B)
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Readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1. Leviticus 13, 1-2 and 44-46
  • I hear a prescription of the Law dealing with those afflicted with leprosy.  I know that Jesus has changed all this.  So what is the point of repeating old ordinances that no longer hold?
  • I listen to the ritual words: He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall declare him unclean.  The people already shun the leper on the human plane.  Such hideous illness was considered a judgment of God visited upon that person.  But the reason that leprosy is mentioned in the Torah is the ritual implication: unclean.  It was in that context that the representative of the people before God, only after an exhaustive examination of the person’s skin condition, confirmed their fears and prejudices as well as God’s obvious judgment.  Even the afflicted one must accept the sentence: He shall declare himself unclean because he is in fact unclean. 
  • As I rehearse these words, I begin to contrast the pronouncement of the Law with the pronouncement of Jesus in today’s Gospel, and also with the humane treatment of the afflicted person today, not to mention the medical remedies now available for those suffering leprosy in Jewish and Gentile hospitals. 
  • One connection to our own day: my listeners and I have ways of marking people who are not like ourselves, telling them apart by their clothes and appearance.  We shun them and leave them to dwell apart, making their abode outside the camp.  And, by the way, why is Molokai still the least visited island in Hawaii?
  • Another connection: Disaster victims in our own country, or in far-off Africa and Asia, remain out of sight and out of mind when the media cameras turn away from them.  They do not have to exchange their clothing, for their desperate state itself is what makes their garments rent and their head bare.
  • Climax: The second half of this short reading, where it says: The priest shall declare him unclean. 
  • Message for our assembly: Compare this reading to the Gospel reading.  Our mission is not to ratify the apartheid already present in the world but to break down barriers among God’s children.
  • I will challenge myself: To make the congregation pay attention and call to mind the way they have divided the family of man in their hearts.

 

2. I Corinthians 10, verse 31 to 11, verse 1

  • The apostle is exhorting the church of Corinth to build bridges among themselves.  This new (local) church must have more sensitivity toward those who make it up.  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the (universal) church of God.
  • He gives them his own example to follow in that respect.  Just as I donot seeking my own benefit but that of the many. 
  • The need for this message in our multicultural church has only been heightened, and I will make that clear by the direct way I announce it.  The motive has nothing to do with “getting along,” but with being true to Christ.
  • Climax: The often quoted lines at the very end.  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
  • The message for our assembly: Everyone is called to service in the church.  Do we seek ourselves or do we look to the needs of others?
  • I will challenge myself: To reflect faithfully the man Paul who offered his own life among the people as an example.  A few of us might be able to say that with dramatic conviction.  But do our lives measure up? 

 

Gospel. Mark 1, 40-45

  • I have just finished studying the lesson in Leviticus about the ritual impurity of the lepers in Israel and the apartheid to which they must resign themselves.  The leper colony in Ben Hur might be an authentic portrayal of that definitive lifetime separation.  As I read the Gospel passage, I notice that every detail stands out in sharp contrast to the concern of the Law over uncleanness.
  • A leper came to Jesus.  For shame!  He broke the barrier between the clean and unclean, and is in further violation of the Law.  Perhaps – No! probably! – Jesus walked up close to a colony, so that the inhabitants would be expected to shake their bells and warn him away.  I wouldn’t put it beyond him.  So the lepers had heard of him, too.
  • The leper, kneeling down begged him: If you wish you can make me clean.  Kneeling down has to do with the divine Jesus.  And so does ritual cleansing.  If God declares things unclean, God can declare things and people clean.
  • The priests had their careful examination of the skin.  And Jesus?  Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him.  What counts is the humanity of the leper. 
  • I do will it.  Be made clean.  Jesus did not confirm the broken skin and bones he saw on the surface.  He created a new man.  Where there was a warning of impending evil and judgment, he erected the open-ended promise of life.  God wills that all be made clean.  That is why Jesus presents to us in his life and mission the fullness of God.  No wonder he was made clean.
  • He said to him, See that you tell no one anything.  And so begins the Messianic secret in Mark, a convenient way to keep people from misconstruing the man and his mission.  As for the former leper, he went away and began to publicize the whole matter.  Today we have our talk shows and our blogs, so we know how even two hundred million people can hear a story in a day and blow it out of proportion.  But still I wonder: Could I be true to Christ if I kept such wonderful things to myself? 
  • Climax: The new pronouncement of the Lord.  I want it!  Be clean!
  • Message for our assembly: Jesus broke down barriers between people, and we are called to stand especially alongside the afflicted of the world.  Now is not the time to keep the Messianic secret to ourselves!
  • I will challenge myself: To echo in my voice the authoritative voice of the Master.

Word to Eucharist: Who in this procession - in my estimation - does not belong here?  But how do I know this?  And would Jesus reject them, too?

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