February 14, 2021
Hear audio and see video of this homily
GOSPEL READING STARTS AT 21:24
HOMILY STARTS AT 23:05
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.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
Once again, Happy Valentines ladies. You are a true instrument of God’s Grace.
Let me explain why I say this.
Growing up on our East Texas farm, around 5 years of age, I got the chicken pox. Now, when I say I got the chicken pox – I mean the mother lode of chicken pox.
They were on the soles of my feet, in my ears, on my eyes, in my mouth and down my throat – I don’t think you could find a place I didn’t have a sore.
So, my mother treated them with Calamine lotion to help with the itching – if you scratched them, they would scar. But, as the lotion- would dry, it would pull the skin—. With that and the itching and fever it was – miserable.
But that’s not what I remember most. That was this amazing feeling from time to time of a wonderful coolness that would quiet my restless sleep and give me peace.
That came from my mom’s touch checking my fever. Through that touch God’s Grace allowed the healing I needed.
That’s why, ladies, I believe you are the instrument of that Grace.
Which brings us to the first scripture of Leviticus. In it we hear how a person was declared a leper. A single sore on the head could have priest declare you unclean. In those days, any skin disease could be declared leprosy, what we know as Hanson’s disease. A terrible disease where your body dies while you are still in it. Then, immediately you have to rip your clothes and cover your mouth and head and call out “unclean” if you approach or, are approached by anyone. No human contact allowed. No conversation.
One sore – on your head. Imagine being covered with hundreds of sores all over your body. Imagine, a 5 year old being ripped from his home and family and taken to a leper colony where he would very likely actually become a leper.
The man in the Gospel today – we don’t know how long he had been a leper but we do know what that meant. Imagine how desperate he must have been to approach Jesus with no warning. He was breaking a very strict law and risked death by stoning. How long had he been away from his family? His friends? How long had he been kept from human touch or conversation?
So, he approaches Jesus, falls to his knees and begs, “If you will it, you can make me clean.” My heart breaks for him. So much desperation – so much hope.
And, what does Jesus do? Does he draw back? Does he yell, “Get away”?
No, he waits quietly as an obvious leper approaches and begs for healing. And then, he says, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And he stretches out his hand and TOUCHES him. Jesus did most of his healing through touch. Imagine how this man must have felt. How long since last he felt the sensation of a human touch?
Now, think of what has happened to our elderly and sick. I don’t have an answer to COVID-19. I’m addressing how our loved ones must have felt like lepers – isolated from loved ones as they died – alone. Pray for them, their loved ones and the medical staffs. All have suffered. When this is over, don’t ever miss a chance to hold, touch or tell your loved ones you love them.
This is from Mark’s Gospel. We know this is being shared amongst people in hiding from persecution. The Romans wanted to stamp out “the way”. Other Jews were turning them in to gain favor with the Romans.
What do you take from this story? What message is Mark sharing?
I think, we are all lepers. Our leprosy is sin. Even one sin is bad, but imagine being covered in multiple sins.
Mark is saying, I believe, that God won’t draw away but rather, he will reach out to us and touch us, like my mom did to her 5 year old.
And that is how healing happens.