6th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021 – Homily
Today’s Gospel (MK 1: 40-45) and the Book of Leviticus (Lev 13: 1-2. 44-46) are related to the lepers and disease of leprosy. The Book of Leviticus (Chapter 13) explains in details about the diagnosis of leprosy. When a leprosy appears on a person’s skin, it begins with “a swelling or scab or spot” and slowly the spots spread all over the person’s body and hair begins to fall out. It even gets worse, where the victim’s nails and toenails start to rot and eventually falls off piece by piece. Leprosy keeps eating away his/her body till death consumes that life.
It is a contagious skin-disease that time and it was considered as unclean. Interestingly, in the Old Testaments time, once a person was suspected of a skin-decease, he/she would be taken to a priest, and he would examine the infected part of the person by isolating him or her for 7 days. If on the seventh day, the priest observed that there are signs of infection has spread then he would declare the person as “unclean”. Even, the Old Testaments says that the leper has to stay 2 meters away from the person. The victim would be living on his/her own or isolated (quarantine) from the community until he was made “clean,” (cf. Lev 13: 45-46).
Today, we can liken this disease with the deadly virus COVID-19. It is a contagious-virus and it spreads like wild fire, today. A person who has contracted with this virus may or may not indicate any symptom fever, cough, etc. After a RT-PTR (Swab Test), then the patient will know the result either positive or negative.
Just for a precaution, we are constantly reminded and alerted to observe the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) such as, wearing facial mask, ensuring physical distancing and practising hand washing frequently. The authorities have come out with many Dos and Don’ts, accordingly. The patient may be quarantined either at home, rehabilitation centre or hospital. There is no specific medication but ventilator will be provided, if necessary, for those have respiratory difficulties. The person is not allowed to come out in public until he/she completes the required period of quarantine. With the new found vaccine, we just hope (God’s willing) this vaccine will bring to an end, one day, to the C19 virus as how leprosy is almost quite unknow today.
In biblical times, there was no cure to leprosy and it was the worst type of disease to contract. Only in the early 20th Century, the doctors were treating the leprosy patients with modern medicine and methods. In the Old Testaments days, the leprosy was known as punishment from God for the leper’s sins and he would be treated as an unclean, corrupted, condemned outcast of the society. In Jesus’s time, it was so much different, yet Jesus daring and confidently moved in into the personal space of the leper with love and passion, He touched the leper, murmured His instructions and “Immediately leprosy left him and he was cured,” (MK 1:40).
Any kind of illness or decease is not something that we should be equating to punishment for sin. We all have to face these life realities of pain, suffering, illnesses, sickness or even death, as you know today. We simply cannot run away from these realities. It may frighten us but we should not afraid of them. We need to learn or cope with them and I am sure, through the mercy of God, He will forgive and heal us. Therefore, we need to rebuild our faith, confidence and trust in Jesus, as the leper did in the Gospel encounter of Jesus. So, say this sincerely, “If you will, you can make me clean.” We all need our Lord’s loving, forgiving and healing touch. In His Time and Will, that we may be cleaned and be purified in my mind and body, spirit and soul. So be still as He fights for you every single breath you take and exhale.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy