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Christ: the lover of the unlovable

Homily for 6th Sunday in Ordinary time 2012

Our Gospel today is one of those gospels that is really not Good News for us when we hear it for the first time. It is seemingly ‘not’  Good  News for us who are called Christians because to live out this noble name is to imitate Jesus Christ on what he was doing – to love the unlovable, to give hope to the hopeless. It is not ‘Good News’ for us who are apparently healthy and well-off but are called not only to  ‘stretch out our hands’ as Jesus did to the ‘leper’ but also to ‘touch’ the person. ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’ says St Paul in our Second Reading today.

Jesus loves the unlovable. The people who have leprosy were repugnant in the time and the culture wherein Jesus was living in. We can’t blame them. It has always been the ‘tolerated or even recommended attitude or behaviour’ that the Law of Moses expected of the people. Our  First Reading today  gives us a glimpse of what was it like before. Once diagnosed with leprosy the leper would have to act or wear some signs distinctive only of lepers, to shout ‘unclean’ as he/she goes out to the streets, and even to live ‘apart’ from the rest of the society. Physically, he/she was really sick. And more so emotionally or psychologically, he/ she was to be rejected systematically. But Jesus in our gospel today ignored the prescribed rituals or laws against the lepers by expressing his great love to the leper.  Our Gospel tells us that Jesus was ‘feeling sorry for him.’ According to one Commentary, the original language  to describe  the attitude of Jesus towards the leper, would point that He felt more than sorry about him.  He rather ‘felt compassion’ towards him. It means in latin ‘to suffer with.’ Because He loves the person himself Jesus realizes that the leper was not only physically sick but also psychologically. Because He suffered with the leper, he can understand what was it like to be sick physically and psychologically. And because of this, He stretched out his hand and touched the leper (a thing prohibited in the Jewish law– for the leper should have gone to the priest first and be proclaimed publicly as ‘clean or cured’). Because of love Jesus went beyond the letter of the law. He went across borders or cultural boundaries, because that is just how God loves us- unconditional.

Jesus gives hope to the hopeless.  Only in Jesus we can find the real meaning and the assurance that our Christian hope is really pointing to- that something which real and so great a mystery which we are all called to share with in God’s time. The leper in our gospel has started to lose that hope but he made use of the little hope he has. He may have felt he has nothing to lose at all if Jesus wouldn’t cure him. He said:’ If you want to, you can cure me.’ Such a humble and simple statement of hope. He wasn’t demanding  of Jesus. He was just stating the facts of his being, of his neediness, of  the hopelessness of his situation. Jesus touched him. And that touch cured him not only physically but also psychologically. Because of what Jesus has done unto him, he realized that he is worth more than just a dime. Thus, he couldn’t contain the  ‘Good News’ he has personally heard and experienced- that there is still hope for a better and a healthy life despite the ‘hellish’ life he has been experiencing until Jesus came along to his life. He went out and told the people of the Good News as well.

In our time and age, experiencing the love of  Jesus and living in hope are tough calls. It is so because we always have excuses not to allow Jesus to touch us. Everyday God wants to touch us in a more personal way. He wishes we would allow him to be part of the solution of the problems we are facing. He wishes we would allow him to speak to us and we listen. But  our time now is always trying to compensate this Spiritual drought by  bombarding us with all material things that we tend to believe the reasons or the ways to make us live a happy and a contented life. But we cannot cure cancer with just a capsule of antibiotic. In like manner, we cannot end our spiritual drought by having material possessions. It’s the wrong remedy and most of the time, it just doesn’t work alright.

Living in hope is also another tough call for us now because of the many ‘hopeless’ things or events or life’s circumstances we may have experienced or known about. But Jesus today is telling us: There is hope after all this. This is not the end of things. There is much greater and better things than these. Let’s just hang in there and keep our faith and hope going.

What we can do then? Like the leper, let’s be humble, simple and courageous in facing the reality of our situations and bringing them all to Jesus. And as we have heard in the Gospel, Jesus transformed the situation, from the worst to the best. This is not just a wishful thinking. It is true not only because the Gospel says this, but also because Jesus himself has shown us this. He suffered the worst of that agonizing Friday but he has also received the best of that remarkable Easter Sunday.

Like the leper, let’s be humble yet courageous before others and before the Lord. And like Jesus, let’s stretch out our hands and touch others as Jesus touches them. Let’s then be Christ to others. Let’s be the ‘Good News’ for others. Amen.



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