Message: That cleansing will enable you to place yourself completely under Jesus' authority.
Before giving this homily I want to make a brief statement. Many of you know that I dedicate the third Tuesday of each month to prayer and fasting for an end to domestic violence. I do this because of a terrible case of violence which has affected my family and as a priest I have seen it in so many of our families. Now, a movie comes out that glamorizes such violence. I ask you to join me in prayer and fasting. (Maybe not so much this Tuesday - it's mardi gras - but certainly on Ash Wednesday and during Lent.)
This homily concludes our mini-series on the Authority of Jesus. When Jesus begins his public ministry he speaks with authority. The word has an interesting etymology: "auctor" in Latin means "originator." Jesus is the origin, the source. He comes not so much to give us a new teaching, but to give us himself. Jesus is our origin and our future, our destiny.
To realize our destiny we have to place ourselves under Jesus' authority. That process involves recognizing our sins, receiving his forgiveness and becoming his disciple.
Last Sunday we saw Jesus authority in an interesting way: his first miracle of healing - not a cancer or a paralysis, but something seeming small. A fever. A fever, however, can lay a person low. That's what happened to Simon's mother-in-law. Jesus goes to her, takes her hand and lifts her up. She begins to serve - with gratitude, not grudgingly. Jesus heals us so we can serve others, become his disciples.
This Sunday we see another aspect of Jesus' healing. He cleanses a leper. As the first reading indicates, it's not easy to diagnose leprosy. It begins with a small blotch and then little by little consumes a person. First the extremities (feet, hands, nose) and eventually the inner core.
Leprosy provides a graphic image for how sin works. Greed, lust, envy at first they seem insignificant but they keep eating away and finally destroy from within.
Often enough we don't recognize our own failings. A guy can consider himself compassionate and generous, but the people he lives with tell a different story.
Like the first stages of leprosy, it's difficult to see personal faults. Nevertheless, those faults - those little sins - do affect us. Eventually they become hard to ignore.
A guy might say to me that he doesn't know what to do about some vice - for example, anger. He flies off the handle and hurts people close to him. He doesn't know why but feels like he has some kind of poison inside. He keeps thinking about people who have hurt him. He fantasizes about what he would say to them. Years later he still wants revenge. The anger eats away inside him and begins to affect his way of relating to others.
I do not have a quick remedy for resentment. If I did I would use it myself. In a way it's like going to a doctor. I want a simple prescription, something I can take that will make the problem disappear. But a good doctor will go deeper. He will talk about a whole program that involves stress reduction, learning to eat the right food, getting fresh air and exercising.
Similarly Jesus offers more than a simple cure. After he cleanses the leper, he says, "go show yourself to the priest." Jesus insists on a program. And as things turn out, we do have just such a program. It begins Wednesday and is called Lent. It involves getting ashes on the forehead and abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays of Lent. The program includes re-ordering your finances. And it means making a new schedule - dropping some activities so you can have time alone with Jesus.*
Jesus wants to heal the leprosy that threatens to consume from within - anger, lust, spiritual laziness, envy, arrogance. Jesus desires to cleanse and to give a new mind and heart. That cleansing - as it progresses - will enable you to live what St. Paul says today, "Do everything for the glory of God." That is, place yourself completely under Jesus' authority.
What would it be to say to Jesus, "If you wish, you can make me clean."? And then to hear, "I will do it. Be made clean." Amen.
*You can't say everything in one homily, but homilist may want to say upfront that no matter what a person's present state, no matter what he has done, no matter how big a mess he has made, God cares for him - as good parent cares for his child. You might consider yourself finished, but God has not finished with you yet.
From the Archives (Sixth Sunday, Year B)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
2015 Peru Mission Trip
Blessing the New Home of Felipe & Maria
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