Sunday, February 14, 2021, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Do Not Cause Others to Be Unclean
First Reading Commentary: Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
Many people consider the book of Leviticus to be outdated because of the harsh punishments decreed under the Law. In today’s reading, the Lord decrees that a leper is to be declared unclean by Aaron or one of the other priests and shall dwell apart from the camp. Furthermore, so that they are not approached by others, the leper shall cry out, “Unclean, unclean!”
Leprosy is not a common disease anymore and we do not carry out such practices to those who have it. It is considered to be inhumane to treat people in such a manner. But then again, society is not very nice to people who suffer from diseases such as AIDS. But that is not what I want to discuss in this commentary.
What are the real messagess for us in this reading from Leviticus? First, when we sin, especially when we sin against the body, we are unclean in the eyes of God. The good news is that where a disease like leprosy may not go away, we can be cleansed of our sins. In fact, it is automatic if we admit to our sins, repent asking God for His mercy and forgiveness and also, do penance. This is why Christ took the sins of the world to the cross and it is what the sacrament of Confession is all about.
Think about it: the leper crying out, “Unclean” can be compared to us admitting to our sins. Any leper who is cured of leprosy during the time of the Israelites can be compared to those of us who are granted God’s mercy and forgiveness.
The second message is: Having to dwell outside of the camp is the same thing as not being accepted into God’s Kingdom. If we choose to live a life of sin without admitting to our guilt and asking God for His mercy and forgiveness, we choose to live outside of the Kingdom.
The third message is: We are not to share our sins with others. We are not to put others into harm’s way as a result of our sins. We are not to do anything which might result in another person committing the same sins that we have committed because of our influence. The lepers in Leviticus by shouting out, “Unclean, unclean” were doing everything they could to keep others away from their uncleanliness—sinfulness.
We all sin. Many of us, me included, have a habit of committing the same sin over and over again. Thank the Father for His unlimited mercy and forgives. Thank the Son for taking our sins to the cross. Thank the Spirit for living inside of us always counselling us through our consciences. The only thing that we have to do to benefit from all of God’s loving help, is to be truly sorry for our offenses and ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness. It does not get any easier or any better than that. Aren’t we blessed by not being lepers during the time of the Israelites?
Be One with Christ
Second Reading Commentary: 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
I have commented many times that after Paul’s conversion, he became like Christ. In today’s reading from First Corinthians, Paul tells us to imitate him as he imitates Christ. But there is a deeper meaning to the word imitate in Paul’s message.
Paul tells us to give glory to God when we eat or drink and in everything that we do. It is customary to offer a prayer of thanksgiving before we eat as a means of giving glory to God. But we do not always think in terms of giving glory in everything that we do.
Is it possible to do anything without God? If we wake up, it is because God allows it. If we have good health, it is because God wills it. If we have bad health, it is because God wills that too and that may be because God wants to get our attention so that we appreciate Him more.
There is nothing that we can do during the course of a day that we are able to do without God’s help. One reason why is: because everything that we do requires us to use something that God gave us. Whether it, be something intangible such as our minds or a tangible item such as a tool. If we are doing anything at all, we are using something that God created and gave to us. And, consider this: We can do nothing if we are not living and we cannot live without breathing and if we are breathing, we are using the air that God gave us. This is why Paul tells us to give glory to God in everything that we do.
Paul says, “Avoid giving offense…just as I try to please everyone…not seeking my own benefit but that of the many that they might be saved.” That’s a lot! First, Paul is telling us to obey the Second Greatest Commandment.
When Paul tells us to try to please everyone, he is telling us to remember the Golden Rule and the Lord’s Prayer. Paul is telling us to especially remember the line, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That too points directly to the Second Greatest Commandment.
Next, Paul tells us not to be selfish. We are all on this journey called life together and we need to be there for each other and help each other along the way. This too is consistent with obeying the Second Greatest Commandment.
Finally, Paul gives us the reason why we should do these things which is: so that others might be saved. But with that reason, Paul is actually telling us something else that we should do and that is to evangelize as we are called to do by our baptism. There is no greater way to let God know that we love our neighbor and that we love Him than to share His Word with others so that we might bring others to Him.
When we do all of these things, we are not simply imitating Christ and we are doing much more than being like Christ. We are making ourselves one with Christ, which is to say that we are doing our part as a working member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and that is Paul’s most important message today.
By Our Faith We Receive All That Is Good
Gospel Commentary: Mark 1: 40-45
Who can make our troubles go away just by saying, “I do will it?” There is only one answer to that question. There is only One who, possesses such power. Our Creator, who is also our Savior, is the only One.
In today’s Gospel, a leper kneeled down in front of Jesus and begged for healing saying, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” The key words being: “If you wish.” With those words, the leper was testifying that he believed in Jesus. With those words, the leper was really saying, “I know that you can do anything and nothing is beyond you.” With those words, the leper was also saying, “Thy will be done.”
The leper’s request was more than a plea for healing. It was a demonstration of his faith and with that faith he was giving God His glory. Our prayers are not answered because God can do anything. Our prayers are answered because we know in faith that God can do anything.
Mark tells us that Jesus was moved with pity for the leper. Why would Jesus have pity on the leper? Is it possible to have pity on someone without having compassion and love in your heart? Is it possible to have pity on someone without being humble?
We often look at pity in a negative way. If someone has pity on us, we feel like they are looking down on us. As a result, we may feel awkward telling someone that we have pity on them and sometimes, if we are angry with someone, we mean it as an insult if we do say, “I have pity on you.” But Jesus was demonstrating His compassion, love and humility.
Jesus also demonstrated His understanding. God understands us better than we understand ourselves. God not only knows exactly what He created. God became one of us in the person of the Son and therefore experienced humanity totally and completely. There is absolutely nothing that we experience that Jesus did not experience Himself except for sin.
God does not want us to suffer. We can be led into believing that He does when we say, “God’s will be done” if we allow the evil one to influence us. But God does not want us to suffer. All suffering is a result of original sin which is passed on to us by the sin of Adam and Eve.
God gave us suffering because we sin and only God can take it away. God wants nothing more than to take our suffering away so that we can be with Him in His Kingdom where there is no such thing as suffering.
Today’s message in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is that we should be one with Christ. We should also not forget that God made Himself to be one with us by sending Christ to become one of us. All of this points to why God’s pity on us is a beautiful thing and a demonstration of His compassion.
The leper was healed immediately and Jesus told him to go to the priest and make an offering for his cleansing in accordance with what Moses prescribed in Leviticus 14. In effect, Jesus told the leper how to say, “Thank you.”
Was it the offering that Jesus wanted? Not at all! It is always the heart felt gratitude from which the offering comes that God wants from us. It is always polite to say, “Thank you” and mean it from the heart because that is God’s way.
Jesus also told the leper to tell no one about what happened except for the priest. But the leper paid no attention to that as he spread the word and Mark tells us that it became impossible for Jesus to enter a town and that Jesus remained outside a town in deserted places.
Nothing is impossible for God. However, it is human nature for us to want whatever good things we see someone else possess. For example, we may not live a lavish lifestyle and we may not care about material possessions whether we can afford them or not. But that does not stop us from wanting to be able to have those possessions even though we may choose not to acquire them.
So, when the people heard of the leper’s healing, they all wanted to go to Jesus to be healed themselves. But remember, the leper was healed because of his faith. Mark did not tell us that everyone went to Jesus nor did he tell us that everyone who went to Jesus was healed. Mark said, “and people kept coming…from everywhere.” Those people who made the effort to find Jesus and go to Him because they believed in Jesus are the people who were no doubt healed by Jesus.
What do you think? Was Jesus upset with the leper for spreading the news of his healing? The Gospel does not answer that question. But consider this: God is never upset with us for spreading the Good News. If fact, He calls us to do so by our Baptism.
Who among us with faith can be blessed by God in such a personal way as this leper was blessed without spreading the good news? As contradictory to today’s Gospel as it may seem, we are not supposed to keep God’s blessings a secret. So, what do you think that Jesus really meant with the words “no one” in His warning to the leper? I believe that Jesus was telling the leper to not bother with people who have no faith and that would be the people who would not believe the leper's story of how he was healed.
One cannot believe in God without faith and God has no time for anyone without faith. Everyone with faith knows without a doubt that, it is from God that all good things come and it is by our faith that we receive all that is good.