6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)


6th. SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B) Mark 1:40-45 - Feb 11, 2018

A great prophet has arisen in our midst. God has visited his people“

One of the amazing moments of Saint Francis of Assisi´s conversion was his encounter with the leper. His first biographer Thomas of Celano, in his First Life of Saint Francis, wrote, "So greatly loathsome was the sight of lepers to him at one time, he used to say, that, in the days of his vanity, he would look at their houses only from a distance of two miles and he would hold his nostrils with his hands. But now, when by the grace and the power of the Most High he was beginning to think of holy and useful things, while he was still clad in secular garments, he met a leper one day and, made stronger than himself, he kissed him. From then on he began to despise himself more and more, until, by the mercy of the Redeemer, he came to perfect victory over himself. Of other poor, too, (…) he was the helper, stretching forth a hand of mercy to those who had nothing, and showing compassion to the afflicted.” Francis himself, at the end of his life wrote in his Testament, "When I was in sins, it seemed extremely bitter to me to look at lepers, and the Lord himself led me among them and I practiced mercy with them."

When I was in High School I read the book The Leper of Molokai, which really fascinated and impressed me, about the priest from Belgium who went as a missionary to Molokai, in the colony of Kaluapapa, in the Kingdom of Hawaii. After caring for those infected with leprosy, the Hansen´s disease, for sixteen years, he contracted leprosy, and died as the Apostle of the Lepers. After been canonized by Benedict XVI in 2009 Saint Damien of Molokai is considered the patron saint for leprosy and outcasts.

Once during his public ministry "A leper came close to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, 'If you will to do so, you can cure me.' Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him and said to him: 'I do will it. Be cured.' The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean."

Brother Francis of Assisi and Father Damien brought Jesus Christ to the outcasts of their society. They were like Jesus Christ, reaching out and touching a leper, being concerned for the welfare of the lepers, not concerned with themselves.

Seeing the compassion of Jesus for the leper we should ask ourselves, who are the outcasts of our society? Not only people infected with AIDS or other dreaded illnesses. But also the outcasts of our society today are the homeless, the mentally ill, the street children and elderly, the displaced, the unemployed, that person who has embarrassed a family by getting involved with addictions and illegal activities.

By their example St. Francis and St. Damien put into practice the message of the Gospel today, to reach out to those who are suffering and touch them with the healing love of Jesus Christ. By following the Gospel we may open ourselves up to insult and attack from people in our community and even from those we want to help. But it is Jesus Christ who gives us the courage to conquer that pain. One evening, when we friars and Secular Franciscans were serving a hot meal to the homeless, a man passed by and told us, “You should not do that with that people; they get used to receive and not work.” I told him, “The second part is true, but to do nothing is even worse.”

Jesus not only got close to the leper, but actually reached out and touched him, even going against the law of Leviticus; by this action he declared charity is higher than any law. Jesus wants us to change our attitude toward the leper, whom we never see, that is, toward those held in contempt in our society. Can we Christians who follow Jesus and his Gospel of compassion and mercy treat others with disdain, rejection and discrimination?

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