6 Sunday B - Healing of the Leper

1.     Fr.Tony Kadavil: 

#1: The healing touch:
Studies show that babies who are not touched may die. Experts tell us that infants need to be held a lot. They have a basic need for physical warmth. Marcel Gerber was sent by a United Nations committee to study the effects of protein deficiency on Ugandan children. She found, to her surprise, that Uganda's infants were developmentally the most advanced in the world. It was only after two years of age that the children began to be seriously damaged by such things as tribal taboos and food shortages. Ugandan infants were almost constantly held by their mothers and mother surrogates. They went everywhere with their mothers. The physical contact with the mother and the constant movement seemed to be the factors that propelled these infants to maturity beyond Western standards. Many young parents today understand this principle and make it a practice to massage their infants. That's a wise practice. We all have a need to be touched. Studies have shown that touching has physiological benefits--even for adults. One researcher made numerous studies on the effects of the practice many Christians recognize called "laying on of hands." She discovered that when one person lays hands on another, the hemoglobin levels in the bloodstreams of both people go up, which means that body tissues receive more oxygen, producing more energy and even regenerative power. Jesus could have healed this man with leprosy simply by speaking, but he reached out and touched him, too. He may have known that this was exactly what this man needed.

# 2: St. Francis of Assisi and the leper:
Today’s Scripture lessons teach us that the sick and the maimed are, for us, not to be objects of scorn, but potential reservoirs of God's mercy. St. Francis of Assisi, for instance, understood this. At one time in his life, he had a terrible fear of lepers. Then one day when he was out for a walk, he heard the warning bell that lepers were required to ring in the Middle Ages. When a leper emerged from a clump of trees, St. Francis saw that he was horribly disfigured. Half of his nose had been eaten away; his hands were stubs without fingers and his lips were oozing white pus. Instead of giving in to his fears, Francis ran forward, embraced the leper and kissed him. Francis’ life was never the same after that episode. He had found a new relationship with God, a new sensitivity to others and a new energy for his ministry.

2.     From the Connections: 

Lepers, statistics and ghosts

A writer who was recently laid off by his magazine reflects on his “life as a statistic”:

“I was watching the television news recently when it suddenly hit me that I was on it.  Not that you’d have noticed.  I was one of the 10,080,000 counted as unemployed . . . placing me among 6.5 percent of the non-farm workforce, the highest jobless rate in 14 years . . . Now I’m not looking for any sympathy, although I still don’t understand why the government didn’t deem the magazine that laid me off too big to fail, as it did some financial institutions . . . I’m sure that many of the unemployed are worse off than I am.  Thanks to savings and my wife’s job, we can still pay the bills.

“It’s more of the psychic impact that’s taking its toll: the feeling, most noticeable from 8 A.M. Monday to 5 P.M. Friday, that I’m on the outside, while everyone else — or 93.5 percent of them, anyway — is on the inside.

“And not a single one of them is returning phone calls or e-mail.

“When you’re on the outside, you quickly forget what it’s like on the inside.  Instead of dreading a blinking light on your answering machine, you’re looking forward to it.  Instead of unread messages piling up in your in-box, they’re trickling in.  Even the Nigerian bankers have struck me from their list.

“Initially I was a bit choosy about which job postings I’d respond to, blithely assuming that employers would be stampeding for my services.  Now I answer them all.  I figure a bolt of lightning would find me more attractive than a prospective employer.  Actually, I shouldn’t say that.  Several people have responded.  But I think they’re only teasing me.  They get my hopes up with a phone call or even an interview, only to, well, forget I existed.

“After I lost my job, I turned into merely a number.  Then worse: I became a ghost.”

[From “My Life as a Statistic” by Steve Maas, The Boston Globe Magazine, December 7, 2008.]

We sometimes reduce others to mere statistics that serve as warnings to us of the disaster that can befall us if we aren’t careful and on guard — we forget that hidden in these cold numbers are real, live people whom we have consigned to the margins because of the “uncleanliness” of their failure and misfortune.  They are the “lepers” of our own time and place.  Christ who healed the leper and the unclean comes now to “cleanse” us of our debilitating sense of self that blinds us to the sacredness and dignity of those we reject as “lepers,” to heal us of our own discouragement and hopelessness so that we realize again that God extends his compassion and grace even to the likes of us.  Before God, no one is a leper beyond the reach of his mercy and compassion; all of us are sons and daughters of the Father, made in the sacred image of the God of justice, peace and reconciliation.  These especially difficult times challenge us not to let a devastated economy reduce people to statistical “lepers” but to reach out to one another with compassionate dignity and respectful generosity.    


Today's Gospel is Mark’s account of the transfiguration of Jesus.  In the event witnessed by Peter, James and John on the mountain, the promise of the first covenant (Moses the great law giver and Elijah the great prophet) converges with the fulfillment of the new covenant (Jesus the Messiah).

Throughout Israel's history, God revealed his presence to Israel in the form of a cloud (for example, the column of cloud that led the Israelites in the desert during the Exodus -- Exodus 15).  On the mountain of the transfiguration, God again speaks in the form of a cloud, claiming the transfigured Jesus as his own Son.

Returning down the mountain, Jesus urges the three not to tell of what they had seen, realizing that their vision would confirm the popular misconception of an all powerful, avenging Messiah.  The mission of Jesus the Messiah means the cross and resurrection, concepts Peter and the others still do not grasp.

HOMILY POINTS:                                     

What the disciples saw in Jesus on the mountain was the divinity -- the very life and love of God -- that dwelled within him.  That love of God lives within each one of us, as well, calling us beyond our own needs, wants and interests. 

Love that calls us beyond ourselves is transforming.  In the transforming love of Christ the Messiah-Servant, we can “transfigure” despair into hope, sadness into joy, anguish into healing, estrangement into community.

The Jesus of the Gospel comes with a heavy price: the glorious Christ of the Transfiguration will soon become the Crucified Christ of Good Friday.  Accepting the God of blessing is easy, but when that God becomes the God of suffering who asks us to give readily and humbly to others and to forgive one another without limit or condition, then we begin to insulate ourselves from the relationship God invites us to embrace.  In risking the pain and demands of loving one another as Christ has loved us, the divinity we recognize in the Jesus of the Transfiguration becomes for us the eternal life of the Jesus of Easter. 

3.     Fr. Jude Botelho: 

The first reading from Leviticus describes the terrible plight of the lepers in the Old Testament. The leper was considered unclean and had to proclaim that he was unclean, by his dress, appearance and voice. As long as anyone was suffering from this disease he was ostracized and had to live outside human dwellings. More fearful than the disease were the social effects of being an outcast shunned by society. In Israel, leprosy was considered as the ultimate punishment for sin. Though leprosy is curable today, it is still dreaded and we keep away from lepers. We still have lepers close by - people who, for one reason or another, are defined by their condition and not treated as people -the homeless, the unattractive, many diseased, the armless, the twisted body, people with Aids. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves also that we ourselves are often, in one way or another, inwardly leprous.

Handicap no barrier

Henri Vicardi was born in 1912 in New York City to immigrant parents. He was born without normal legs. He spent most of his early life in a hospital. He did not receive his artificial legs till he was twenty-seven. But what a life he lived! He has become one of the most respected figures in the fields of rehabilitation and education. He has devoted his life to ensuring that severely disabled individuals might have all the opportunities to achieve their fullest potential as human beings. In 1952 he founded the internationally famed Human Resources Centre in Elberton, Long Island. Henri has been an advisor to every president from Roosevelt to Reagan. Once, an interviewer asked him, "Henri where did you get such a positive attitude towards life?" His answer was a classic. He said, "When the turn came for another crippled boy or girl to be sent to the world, God consulted his Council of Ministers and they suggested that they could be sent to the Vicardi's family."
Francis Xavier in 'The World's Best Inspiring Stories'

The leper in today's gospel in spite of being forbidden to associate or draw near to people, boldly approached Jesus and voices his simple prayer: "If you wish, you can make me clean." He did not ask for a cure, his was a statement of belief in the all-inclusive power of Jesus, an affirmation of his own dependence on Jesus, an act of faith. He left himself totally open to whatever Jesus wanted to do with him. Jesus was moved by the approach of the leper, out of sympathy for the afflicted. He stretched out his hand and touched him. Jesus broke all conventions and touched and healed the leper. It was a symbolic act which no doubt shocked the onlookers. Most of us are afraid of the sick, the poor and the outcasts of society. We may give them a few coins, in order to get rid of them but we do not wish to touch them or to be touched by them. Yet we often seek a human touch. We feel honoured when someone important shakes our hands or gives us a pat on the back. "Of course I want to!" Jesus said to the leper. "Be cured!" And the leprosy left him and he was cured. He challenged us, his followers, to reach out to those society rejects today: prisoners, drug addicts, travellers, aids victims. It is amazing what people can do for others. People can rekindle hope, bring back the zest of living, inspire plans for the future, restore self-respect. They can even mirror dimly the infinite charity of God. Jesus had this great understanding of, and feeling for people who were suffering.

Made whole again

In 1981 Peter Cropper, the British violinist, was invited to Finland to play a special concert. As a personal favour to Peter, the Royal Academy lent him their priceless 258-year-old Stradivarius for use in the concert. This rare instrument takes its name from the Italian violin maker, Antonio Stradivari. It is made of 80 pieces of special wood and covered with 30 coats of special varnish. Its beautiful sound has never been duplicated. When Peter Cropper got to Finland, an incredible nightmare took place. Going on stage, Peter tripped and fell. The violin broke into several pieces. Peter flew back to London in a state of shock. A master craftsman named Charles Beare agreed to try to repair the violin. He worked endless hours on it. Finally he got it back together again. Then, came the dreaded moment of truth - What would the violin sound like? Beare handed the violin to Peter Cropper. Peter's heart was pounding inside him as he picked up the bow and began to play. Those present could hardly believe their ears. Not only was the violin's sound excellent, but it actually seemed better than before. In the months ahead Peter took the violin on a worldwide tour. Night after night the violin, everyone thought was ruined forever, drew standing ovations from concert audiences. -The violin story is a beautiful illustration of what happened to the leper in today's gospel. Through the touch of Jesus he was made whole again.

Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

God's Power and you

In this book 'The Spirit of Synergy: God's Power and you', Methodist minister Robert Keck tells how he was racked with pain and confined to a wheelchair by the age of forty. In search of a non-chemical way to manage his pain, Keck explored Christian faith healing, psychic healing, acupuncture, biofeedback and medical hypnosis. Quite suddenly, 80% of his pain disappeared and has not returned. Keck believes that his healing happened when all his research formed a momentary gestalt - that is, a unified peak experience. This was his discovery of synergy, a way of using all the resources of body, mind and spirit for healing and pursuing wholeness. In his holistic approach to health, Robert Keck uses meditative prayer to tap the resources of altered states of consciousness where God's activity frequently takes place. Keck's contention is that if God can speak to us through dreams, why not let him heal us through meditative prayer if he so wills?

Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds'

The Samaritans

Chad Varah was an Anglican priest. In 1953 he buried a girl who had killed herself. The coroner, at her inquest, suggested that she might not have done this desperate act if someone had been around who would have listened to her troubles. Chad Varah decided to use his London church and a telephone to listen to people who were in despair. He put a small advertisement in the local paper, and during the first week he had 27 calls. Soon he was listening and advising people 12 hours a day. There were so many people waiting in his outer office to see him that he asked some of his congregation to come and provide cups of tea for them. Then he found that often people who had come into his outer office in great distress had become different people by the time they reached him, and some did not even wait to see him because one of the helpers had befriended them. So he decided to train a group of his congregation so that they could become more helpful in the way they befriended the clients. That is how the Samaritans were formed.

Gerard Fuller in 'Stories for All Seasons'

Your children are not your own

In his famous book 'The Prophet' the Lebanese poet and mystic Khalil Gibran writes, "Your children are not your own, They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you." The Church normally celebrates Holy Childhood day around this time. This should remind us of the Holy Child who identifies with the little ones of society. Indeed today we should pray that we become more childlike, striving to be like our children. Children call for our immediate attention since they are the most vulnerable of society. We cannot say we will do something for them 'tomorrow'. Their name is 'today'. Hence, let us reach out to our children and also to the 'little ones' in society.
Francis Gonsalves in 'Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds'

He touched me

Some years ago, a man collapsed on a busy corner in downtown Brooklyn. Within minutes an ambulance rushed him to the nearest General Hospital. From time to time he would regain consciousness and would keep calling for his son. In his wallet, the attending nurse found an old letter, which indicated that he had a son, who was a marine stationed in North Carolina. So she called and asked him to come over immediately. As soon as he arrived, the nurse took him to the man's bedside and whispered, "Your son is here! Your son is here!" The old man opened his eyes, and even though he could not recognize the face, he noticed the marine uniform. Reaching out compassionately the young marine took the old man's hand and held it lovingly. Sometime later the nurse urged him to go out and have something to eat and drink. But the marine declined, only asking for a chair, so he could sit by the old man's bedside and keep holding his hand. Sometime before dawn the patient passed away. Stepping up to the marine, the nurse extended her sympathy. "Nurse" he stammered, "who is this man?" The nurse couldn't believe her ears. "Why?" she replied hesitantly, "I thought he was your father." "Quite honestly, nurse, my father died some time ago. I have never seen this man before in my life." "Then why did you not say something earlier?" asked the nurse. "I would have" answered the marine, "but I could see that he was too sick to realize that I wasn't his son. I could also see that he was slipping fast and that he needed the comfort of his son. And so I decided to stay." Compassion is indeed a virtue that makes the love and concern of God a tangible reality for another human being in distress.


God wants us to be whole and bring healing to others! May we be wounded healers!