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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 11 February 2024 Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthian 10:31-11:1 ><}}}}*> Mark 1:40-45
We have seen these past two Sundays Jesus Christ’s personal manner of relating with everyone. It had always been Jesus coming, touching, and speaking directly to the man possessed with unclean spirit at the synagogue in Capernaum on a sabbath and later the sick mother-in-law of Simon Peter at home.
Jesus has always been coming to everyone – to us – in the most personal manner. And he would always ensure all “barriers are down” around him so that we too can approach him like in our gospel this Sunday when a leper came to him for healing.
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
For the third consecutive Sunday, Mark tells us another healing by Jesus at the start of his ministry in Galilee. This is the last in the series but this is so unique because it was the sick who approached Jesus.
Most of all, that sick was afflicted with leprosy, the worst disease considered at that time when people believed (until now) that any sickness and handicap was a punishment from God for sins committed. Leprosy was the worst because it reminded them of the boils God inflicted on the Egyptians when the pharaoh refused to let them go home to their Promised Land with Moses as leader.
More than the ugly sight of the disease, leprosy became the perfect metaphor for sin and punishment. That is why God himself in the first reading personally issued the health guidelines for anyone with leprosy and similar diseases of the skin. Though God’s prescriptions were more of hygienic purposes, these took on a deeper spiritual meaning for the Israelites especially when lepers have to be separated from the community that it seemed for them, it was indeed a punishment for a grave sin.
Jesus radically changed that perception in this healing of the leper who had approached him.
A leper came to Jesus...
Inasmuch as Jesus comes to us everyday as we have seen these past two Sundays, Jesus assures us today that we can always come to him like that leper.
See how this scene was unimaginable because lepers were given strict orders at that time to never approach anyone while people were supposed to drive them away. Where were the four disciples supposed to be following Jesus? And, wasn’t anyone there to restrain that leper from getting close to Jesus?
It seemed Jesus was by himself when the leper approached him as Mark never bothered to tell us of any witnesses at all nor the exact time and location of this incident because this scene happens everyday in our lives. The fact that the leper was able to get near Jesus who welcomed him warmly that day is actually the good news today - Jesus wants us to leave our comfort zones to join him in the middle of the street of his journeys!
Jesus comes to us in the most personal way everyday. And the good news is, nothing can keep us away from Jesus, even our sins which leprosy signified in this story. All barriers are down when Jesus comes and calls us to approach him. No restrictions nor appointments needed to see Jesus who simply wants us to get closest with him like when he “indignantly” told the disciples to let the children come to him (Feast of Sto. Niño, Jan. 21, 2024, Mk. 10:14).
What prevents you or keeps you away from approaching Jesus who passes by everyday?
"I do will it. Be made clean."
In his healings these past two Sundays, recall how Mark presented them to us who seemed detached or far from Jesus like spectators watching, astonished and amazed with his authority as the Son of God, all-powerful and beyond us.
This Sunday, Mark shatters all those feelings within us, telling us to dismiss all those thoughts of Jesus being hard to reach when a leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
Imagine Jesus and you as the leper in this beautiful scene, experiencing the power of his words and hands together!
The words, “I do will it. Be made clean” shows us again the authority of Jesus in his words being sufficient to effect healing like when the Roman centurion declared to him, “only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Mt. 8:8/Lk. 7:7) or when he told the unclean spirit in the man in a synagogue, “Quiet! Come out of him!” (Mk. 1:25).
What is most unique in this Sunday healing is how Jesus felt deep inside that strong love for the leper -for each of us today – that he was filled with compassion to be “Moved with pity”. It was more than an emotion or a feeling within. To be moved with pity is to have one’s heart stirred or disturbed – the literal meaning of the Latin misericordia or mercy. See now the progression from the heart of Jesus, in his compassion and mercy, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
So beautiful! And that happens everyday if we approach Jesus no matter how dark our sins are, no matter how sad we may be or even devastated. Come to your worst like that leper and Jesus will gladly welcome you, heal you, forgive you because he loves you so much!
"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Oh, how easy it is to approach Jesus for sinners and weak people like us but is there anyone like Jesus who puts all barriers down to be approachable through our parents and siblings, teachers and friends, and priests to express what’s deepest in our hearts?
Is there still a St. Paul among us who can humbly declare, “Be imitators of me, as I am an imitator of Christ” who welcomes modern lepers getting near for love and affection, even company?
St. Paul may seem to be boasting to us modern people these days but if we try to understand the context of our second reading, we realize the great apostle was simply being humbly honest and true. The Christians at Corinth never saw Jesus like St. Paul. They needed a model to imitate Christ which St. Paul ably provided them with. After all, St. Paul had truly conformed himself to the crucified Christ (Gal. 2:19) as attested by the early Christians.
And while it is true we are all called to imitate Jesus, we priests are expected to be more like the Crucified Christ – approachable especially by the sick and the poor. How sad when we priests are more seen with the rich and powerful, in all their lavish parties but never or rarely with the poor. The same is true with church workers and volunteers when those at the margins find them difficult to approach. Something is gravely wrong with us if people find us priests and lay Christians difficult to approach because, clearly, we are not imitators of Christ. Have a blessed week ahead as we approach Jesus this Ash Wednesday for the 40-day journey towards Easter. Amen.