Fr. Peter Patrick’s Homily for Sunday, February 14, 2021:
Yes! Jesus is God; He knows everything that we are going through and what we need to become: better people. Jesus touches our hearts when we cry to Him to be healed from our spiritual “leprosy” – just as he did to the leper in today’s Gospel.
In last Sunday’s Gospel, the disciples told Jesus that the mother-in-law of Simon and Andrew was sick and He healed her. That case was the collective responsibility of a community of faith: praying and taking care of the suffering. Today’s gospel is different. In it, the sick man, a leper to be precise, an outcast, came to Jesus. Kneeling down in front of Him, he begged Him saying, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” This case is an individual responsibility. When we ask Jesus to make us clean, it is so personal; even our loved ones don’t know which kind of leprosy we are suffering from.
Today’s readings are preparing us for Lent, a time to reflect more deeply on what is separating us from God and others. In ancient society, people feared lepers because they were contagious. The leper’s life was a living hell. People hated the sight of them, and the lepers in turn hated the sight of themselves. Leprosy represents our sins. Unlike in the first reading, the leper went shouting “Unclean, unclean!” In the Gospel we hear; “A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” The leper’s condition affected him in many ways: physically he was disfigured, spiritually he was excluded from daily worship, and socially he was separated from his family and the community. He was “empty” in so many ways, but Mark portrays him as “full” of faith: his prayer was faithful and true.
Even we are empty in so many ways. We are called to be like the leper who never doubted Jesus. Jesus touched him and made him whole. Sometimes we think our sinfulness is so terrible that we cannot be forgiven. Or that our lives are so messed up, such a disaster, so destructive that we can’t pick up the pieces and start over again. We only need to bring all the pieces to Jesus and He will make us whole again. Jesus can repair our broken lives and even make them better and more beautiful than they were before. From leper, to child of God, to preacher of the Gospel; how profoundly transformative this healing is! For the leper and his community were not whole themselves until he was healed, restored to wholeness and returned to the community.
St. Paul sums it up: “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair..and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed… For this reason, we never become discouraged” (2Cor 4:8-9,16).