Gospel Mark 1:40-45
It’s so nice to be here in La Rochelle and to have this Eucharistic Celebration with you this morning. I want you to close your eyes for a second and imagine the First Reading- Moses, talking to the people who are out of Egypt and going to the Promised Land. Imagine that we are in that government, that we are walking with Moses and that God is walking with him. Let us experience this presence of God in our hearts, in our families and with those who couldn’t come to Church today because of the pandemic. Imagine God’s presence in the whole city, the whole world, in each government God is with us.
Moses was telling the people that God is with us and we need to keep doing things that are pure because God cannot find anything that is messy in our government. Moses gives the norms of what the people should follow, of what they should do and what they should not do. In Romans 35 they were so afraid of having anything that would hurt the presence of God. In Numbers 5 any leper would be removed from the government because they were sinners, unclean, impure and were punished by God.
What a surprise today then that we are celebrating the choice of God! God is not saying these things, ‘Numbers’ put these words in the mouth of God, it was the people who made these rules! We come to celebrate this Sunday the choice of God for those who are sick, vulnerable, poor and miserable.
God touched the person with leprosy, He chose to become impure for our sake. Even Jesus was crucified outside of the Holy city because He wanted to become one of endurance to save us. We have all had the experience of leprosy because leprosy is our sins. Today we can say it is the virus. I had the virus last December and when I was isolated I couldn’t see anybody. Then I could imagine the pain of those who died in hospitals alone and depressed. We don’t know how our bodies will react to the virus and thank God that I am here.
Today’s Gospel of Mark, not even Luke or Matthew recalls these words, is giving us these very important words to recall – besides the physical touching in which Jesus became impure, Jesus had compassion for the leper. Moved with compassion He touched the leper to heal him. So you can see that God among us through Jesus Christ came to do something totally different, the reverse of what the Pharisees were complaining about – that Jesus the Messiah is supposed to come as a King, full of victory, pure and being with only the pure, with those that don’t commit sin. What a reverse by Jesus healing this man. A reverse image of God who has chosen to save us and to touch us, when we receive Him in communion to heal us and deliver us from all our illness. This image of God that we have come to celebrate is full of mercy and compassion. We are the disciples and we are called to follow Jesus in that sense.
Now with the pandemic we are called to have this compassion. There are many widows, orphans, jobless and depressed people because of the virus. The compassion we need to have is charity, prayer, love, a phone call and not to stigmatize people. The lepers needed to shout Impure, Impure so people knew they were coming and would run away, they used to wear a bell around their necks so people would know to stay far away. There is also today a stigmatization of the virus. The Lord has given us a lesson of love, not punishment. We have a God that does not punish. He gives us lessons to get the best out of us – love, mercy and compassion.
At the end of the Gospel Jesus couldn’t enter the villages again because people were running away from Him. This means that Jesus became like a leper, He couldn’t be next to people. We come with a lot of needs to the Eucharistic celebration and we are privileged to receive the Sacraments, but we need to pray for our community that can only receive spiritual communion. Let us be with each other as a family, celebrating the mercy of the Lord through His healing and compassion. May the Lord help us to celebrate His presence so that we can begin important changes in our families and in our lives. May the Lord continue blessing us and giving us the assurance of His closeness as He did with the leper, and touching us with new life in His mercy and compassion. May the seminarian Damas who has arrived today pursue his vocation, and may he and we know that our mission is to serve, to touch people through the Lord, and to give the hope that makes us gracious children of God. Amen.