Sunday, February 15, 2015


Deacon Jerry Franzen   CATHEDRAL – FEBRUARY 15, 2015

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46   1 Corinthians 10:31-11,1 Mark 1:40-45

I recently finished reading a book entitled, “The Fisherman”
by Larry Huntsperger
It is a fictitious account of material taken
from a person’s supposed interview with St. Peter
as he led the early Church.
The book is written in the form of Peter reminiscing about
his time with Jesus.
It is an attempt to view the three years of the ministry of Christ
through the eyes of his most favored companion.
In the beginning of the book, Peter was amazed at the miracles
that Jesus performed.
They convinced him that Jesus truly was a man of God,
a man with super powers sent by God to free the Jewish people
from the suppression of the Romans.
As described in the book, Peter wasn’t so sure that Jesus,
the one he thought would overthrow the Roman oppression,
should be curing the many in the crowds that came to him.
This was drawing a lot of attention to Jesus,
both among the Jewish officials and the Roman occupiers.
All this attention just wasn’t politically good
for the person who would eventually
raise a Jewish army to drive out the Romans.
This is what people thought
that the promised Messiah would do.

At the time of Jesus, the disease referred to in Leviticus
as leprosy was probably not just what
we now  know as leprosy and now call Hansen’s disease.
The “scabs, pustules and blotches” could have referred to
a number of less serious, even curable,
but  communicable diseases of the skin
that could progress to disfigure a person.
Early detection was important.
The only way it was known
whether a person had one of these diseases
was if it had progressed to produce a significant sore.
Such persons were considered to be “unclean”
because their disease was thought to be communicable;
There was a possibility that the disease could spread.
When the leper described in today’s Gospel
came to Jesus in the book I read,
Peter was, for both political and health reasons, thinking
“Go away, we don’t do leprosy.”
Yet, Jesus didn’t just arrest the disease,
or stop it at the state to which it had advanced;
Jesus touched the man, cleansed him, restored him
to his appearance prior to the disease.


As we heard in the first reading,
it was the priest who made the determination
that a person was a “so-called leper” and thus ”unclean.”
Why the priest?
In the Jewish community, in order for a person
to be a member of the worshipping community,
that person must be “clean.”
They believed that the body must be whole, not diseased,
in order to fully worship God.
So the priest made the judgment of whether the person was
“clean” and welcomed as part of the worshipping community
OR “unclean” and have to wear torn clothes,
have a shaved head ND muffled beard,
dwell apart outside the camp AND
tell all by crying out “Unclean, unclean.”


Jesus made it such that the man could return
to his normal relationships with his community,
his family and with his God.
He was no longer forced to be an outcast.
Furthermore, it is important to recognize that
Jesus touched him.
The act of touching someone who was unclean
would render the other person “unclean.”
The very act of one human comforting another in touching
is supremely important in the ministry of Jesus.
It illustrates splendidly why God took on our flesh,
walked the earth and died our death –
to be able to touch humankind
to restore our proper relationship with God and with others.

I see the “leper” in the Gospel as a metaphor for us as sinners.
When we sin, we weaken our relationship with God.
Serious sin removes us far from God.
Sin also puts up a barrier in our relationship with others.
When we are in the state of serious sin,
we are separated from the worshipping community,
because we cannot receive the Eucharist with the others.
Certainly there are occasions when
we should steer clear of others lest we might “infect” others
by being an occasion of sin for them.

Wouldn’t any sinner like to be touched by Jesus?
Jesus can still touch us.
On a retreat given to deacons and wives several years ago,
Fr. Ben O'Cinnseleigh talked about how God sent his Son
to be among us to do the very thing
he did in today’s Gospel reading –
to touch not just a few persons but all humankind.
There are a considerable number of accounts in scripture
where Jesus touched a person and the person was healed.
Last Sunday, we heard how
Jesus touched Peter’s mother-in-law – took her hand
 – and she was cured of her fever.
Fr. Ben went on the say that,
since Jesus is no longer present to us in his human form,
God has given us the sacraments as the means by which
Jesus can continue to touch us.    
The sacrament of Penance,
in which the priest stands in for Jesus,
is the means by which we can feel the cleansing touch of Jesus.
And just like the case of the “leper,”
it is more than a means by which we can sin no more
and continue to live with our sins.
It is a means by which we can go back to zero
and be truly “cleansed” from our sin –
all traces of the sins removed
to be once again declared “clean” of all sin.


Today’s Gospel reading is not just a lesson
about what God has done for us;
it is also a lesson on what we can do for others
If we do an about face
and move from being in the role of the leper
to being a disciple of Jesus,
we should be asking the question,
“Who do I consider to be “unclean” and
how can I touch them to help to make them “clean?”
Who are the outcasts of today? –
the homeless, the immigrants, the poor, the imprisoned,               the addicts, the unwed mothers,
the criminals who have served their sentences.
They are all ostracized, considered to be “unclean”
for one reason or another.

We might tell our children, our friends and ourselves
to stay away from some of them.
BUT, might you hear some of them saying to you,
as the leper did to Jesus,
“If you want to, you can cure me.”
“If you want to, you can help me.
As a follower of Jesus, what is our response?
Is it “I will do it” as was Jesus’ response – at least “I will help.”
or is it more like “Go away, we don’t do that.”
Do we turn a deaf ear to these cries for help.  

There is much that we can do
to help build in them a relationship to a community.
There are soup kitchens and homeless shelters we can support
with contributions and volunteer activities.
There are programs to help immigrants to be acclimated
to our environment.
Some of you may have special language skills
that can help in this area.
There are agencies like the St. Vincent de Paul Society,
Rose Garden Mission, Mary Rose Mission,
Care Net and the New Hope Center,
Welcome House, Be Concerned,
Catholic Charities.
All of these serve the poor and marginalized
in a variety of ways.
They can always use contributions both material and monetary
AND volunteer help.
Efforts in jail ministry can have a big effect on the imprisoned.
The same is true for programs aimed at relieving persons
from the scourge of addiction.
These programs can use your help.
In every case these people need our assistance:
They need help to restore their right relationships
with their families, their friends, their community
and their God.

It is not my aim to be telling you precisely your role, but
we each should be asking ourselves how often we serve God
through serving others.
*“Listen to what God might be saying to you
– the God who took our flesh and blood,
our mind and heart,
to begin making all relationships right.”

* Taken from “Bring the Homeless Poor into Your House?” in
“To Be Just is to Love - Homilies for a Church Renewing”
by Walter J. Burghartd, Paulist Press New York NY 2001 p103