Homily for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass
Audio for homily
Sometimes when I visit people at the hospital,
I find a sign on a patient’s door which says, PRECAUTIONS!
That means I need to don a face mask, protective gloves
and a paper gown over my clothing before entering the room.
Sometimes the PRECAUTIONS are meant
to protect me from the sick person
and sometimes to protect the sick person from me and others
and the germs we might bring into the room.
The first scripture today gives us a set of ancient PRECAUTIONS.
In Moses’ time, in addition to concern about physical infection,
there was also the threat of spiritual contagion.
Even exposure to disease could render people “spiritually” unclean
and restrict them from sharing in the community’s life and worship.
And so there are the prescribed PRECAUTIONS
that the diseased go around announcing themselves as UNCLEAN
and make their home outside the camp --
banished and cut off from the community and its prayer.
Such exclusion was a burden even heavier for Israelites
than the disease they suffered.
Nowadays we may have face masks and gloves and paper gowns today,
but we don’t banish the physically ill on account of their disease.
But we might still have a way to go
when it comes to our sense of spiritual contagion.
• How many people feel excluded
from our Catholic community of prayer
on account of who they are and how they live?
• How many have felt themselves excluded as unclean
by the way we preach the gospel and teach the faith?
• How many have seen the ads on TV “Catholics come home!”
but fear finding a PRECAUTIONS sign on the church doors?
• How many might be with us this morning if you and I reached out
to invite and welcome them back to join us?
Every faith has its teachings and should, of course, proclaim them.
As we are witnessing in the news right now,
the Church does not change its teaching to accommodate others.
Last week our bulletin included a letter from Cardinal Sean
on the recent Health and Human Services decision.
This week you’ll find material on physician-assisted suicide
which may be a referendum on the ballot in November.
The Church has more than two millennia of wisdom to bring to bear
on matters of love and life and death
and at the heart of that wisdom is the person of Jesus.
As we saw in the gospel today, Jesus took NO PRECAUTIONS
when approached by the man with leprosy.
Rather, moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
and touched the man and healed him.
In the eyes of those around him,
that touch made Jesus made himself unclean,
all for sake of the man who had been declared unclean.
For Jesus, there was no face mask, no gloves, no protective gown:
nothing between Jesus and the man
except the man’s faith and prayer.
Nor did the leper take PRECAUTIONS.
He who bore the sores of leprosy wasn’t crying out, “Unclean, unclean!”
He was calling out, “Jesus! Jesus!”
And no one stood in his way.
Something about Jesus led the man to trust he would be accepted.
And he was.
An honest reading of the scriptures shows Jesus continually rejecting
the exclusionary practices of religious hypocrites
and opening wide his arms to any and all
who would follow his path and live by his word.
It’s been said that every time we draw a line in the sand,
separating “us” from “them,”
we can be fairly certain that in each instance
we will find Jesus over there, with “them.”
As lepers were banished from the community
and ordered to make their abode “outside the camp,”
so was Jesus expelled from Jerusalem,
to be crucified on a hill, outside the city limits.
There he gave his life for us, taking no PRECAUTIONS for himself.
As we come to the altar, then,
let us pray, as Christ prayed at table at the last supper,
that all might be one:
as Christ is one with the Father who sent him
and one with us,
in the bread and cup of the Eucharist
we are about to share.
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