Deacon Jerry Franzen CATHEDRAL – FEBRUARY 11, 2018
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46 1 Corinthians 10:31-11,1 Mark 1:40-45
Praised Be Jesus Christ! Good Morning!
When I was in formation and we were studying Sacred Scripture,
the instructor pointed out that, in several places
in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus warned people
not to spread the word about the signs and wonders,
the miracles, that He worked.
It started right here in the 1st Chapter.
The instructor said that, in these instances, Jesus was
being portrayed as though he were the “Hidden Messiah.”
Of course, Jesus’ warnings were not attempts to hide the fact that
He was the Messiah.
He was attempting to make sure that the people did not think
that his power to work miracles was an indication
that he came to use that power to overthrow the Romans.
Jesus explained several times that His miraculous power
was an indication of God’s love for us,
the power to overcome the grip that sin has on us.
In the first reading,
we heard about the power of the disease of leprosy.
It severely disfigured the person as his or her body rotted away.
It led to a slow agonizing death; apparently there was no cure.
It was communicable by a mere touching of the affected person.
It rendered the person an outcast from society.
And I imagine that,
given the understanding of diseases in those days,
a person with this terrible disease
was considered to have been a terrible sinner .
People then thought that disease was God’s punishment for sin.
Yet in today’s Gospel, the leper,
who was supposed to be apart from the rest of the community,
came and knelt before Jesus.
Rather than hanging back and warning Jesus
by shouting “Unclean, unclean.” the leper approached Jesus.
Oh, the power of the faith of this leper.
He broke the rule of isolation,
and risked having Jesus run from him.
Somehow he knew that Jesus would not flee:
he knew that Jesus would have compassion for him.
Compassion – from the Latin for “to suffer with.”
Jesus could understand the suffering of a leper,
as He knew He too would be shunned by society
and suffer his own horrible death.
In response to the faith of the leper,
Jesus showed the power of His love for the leper,
by reaching out and touching him.
As I often ask, “Where are we in this selection of readings?”
“How does this apply to us?”
We must imitate Jesus – this example of His compassion.
Compassion was not just a feeling or an emotion
that Jesus experienced and that was it.
His compassion prompted him to act;
For the reading said:
“Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him
and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.”
As Christians, followers of Jesus, we must respond in action
when we encounter someone in need.
We can’t just say or think “What a pity. I’m so sorry.’”
We must be moved to do what we can to heal the hurt.
That could be an assurance of prayer support
when someone is facing a difficult situation.
It could be a gentle hug or a kind word of support.
It could be financial help in a time of need.
I could be just one’s silent presence – “just being there.”
We must strive to be like Jesus, to welcome those in need of healing,
and not run away from the situation
as many would have in Jesus’ time
when a leper approached.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit,
we can share in the healing ministry of Jesus
But there is another lesson for us here.
Like the leper,
we must be willing to bring our difficulties to the Lord,
to approach the Lord, and say,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
We can’t be avoiding the Lord,
by figuratively yelling “Unclean, unclean” and staying away
when we are steeped in our sinful nature.
Some seem to distance themselves from the Lord
when they need him most.
Mired in sin, some decide to avoid the Lord,
to stay away from the sacrament of Penance.
Maybe some are ashamed of how long it has been
and how many sins they have accumulated.
Maybe they think that they are unworthy of God’s full forgiveness.
Maybe things are so bad that they have just resigned themselves
to the doom of never being with God.
Maybe they just don’t like what they hear
when their sins are recounted by their conscience.
A man was having some difficulties with his hearing.
He went to the doctor for a hearing test;
after the test the doctor asked him whether he drank alcohol.
He said, “Yes.” And the doctor asked, “How much.”
The man replied, “About a pint a day.”
The doctor said “Cut out the alcohol,
and let’s see if your hearing improves. Come back in a month.”
The man came back in a month
and a retest showed that his hearing had improved.
After another month, the man came back,
and the test showed that his hearing was poorer.
The doctor asked the man whether he had gone back to the alcohol.
The man replied, “Yes. I like the way I feel when I drink alcohol,
and I found that I didn’t like much of what I was hearing.”
Maybe we don’t like what we are hearing about ourselves
from that inner voice
which is always nagging us to do the right thing.
My dear friends, this Wednesday we embark on the season of Lent,
my favorite season of the liturgical year.
My favorite, because it is the season in which we prepare for Easter,
the greatest feast in the Church year.
But it is also the time when I give special attention
to the healing power of God’s infinite mercy.
It is also the season that heightens my sorrow for my sins.
The difference between us and the leper is:
the leper left it up to Jesus –
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
In our case, it is up to us,
for we know that Jesus wishes to make all of us clean.
The power of God’s love is so great
that He is always reaching out to us too, to touch us, to heal us.
May we all take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance
during this season of Lent.