Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45
The Gospel today is not just about leprosy otherwise it would be irrelevant to most of us here since we don’t have leprosy. Nevertheless, the message of the Gospel today, and also, of course, the message of the Church, is: Jesus can heal you. Jesus can make you clean.
But we have to stop thinking in terms of physical diseases. We have to go to the level of sin; that is really what Jesus came to take away. If he is not curing you or your loved one from some disease, or taking away some difficulty, it is because it is not his will to do so; it is not his will to intervene.
Leprosy has always been a clear image of sin. It is contagious, disfiguring, repulsive, cuts us off from the community, and causes death. We can see our bodies but we can’t see our souls. Leprosy we can see; sin remains invisible.
But God can see our soul. He can see whether it is diseased and ugly, dead or alive.
The Good News is that although Jesus, for the good of our soul, may delay healing us of disease, he is ‘dying’ to heal our soul from sin. How? Well, if it’s a matter of an everyday sin (a venial sin), Jesus has ALREADY relieved us of that burden during the Penitential Rite of the Mass. Indeed, every time we make a sincere act of sorrow our venial sins are forgiven. However, if it’s a matter of a grave sin (a mortal sin), we have only to come to the priest in Confession and acknowledge that sin to him. In Jesus’ name he will forgive that sin or those sins and relieve us instantly of that burden. What’s stopping us; what's stopping you? The leper in today’s Gospel was not allowed to approach Jesus but he did. What’s stopping you from approaching Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where he is waiting, longing for you - to set you free?
- Are you ashamed? Are you frightened? Are you proud?
- Are you in denial about your sin? - I have no sin.
- Are you uncertain about whether to confess to a priest?
To all of them I say “Well don't be!"
Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be frightened. Don’t be proud. Don’t be uncertain about whether Jesus wants to use a priest to forgive your sins. He sent lepers to the priests and he sends sinners to the priest.
I sit in that confessional every weekend but very few people come. Is that because no one commits mortal sin anymore? No. It is because today people deny they have mortal sin: I have no leprosy! This is certainly one of the grave evils in the Church today; the denial of mortal sin.
Are you not sure whether you have sin? Whether you are a leper? The priest will tell you .. don’t worry about that. In the Old Testament if people thought they might have leprosy they went to see the priest and if they thought they had been cured they went to see the priest. Jesus told the leper in today’s gospel to go and see the priest.
And what would I say? I would say what the Church says (assuming full knowledge and full consent):
- Using contraceptives because you want to avoid pregnancy? - you are in sin;
- had a tubal ligation, vasectomy? - you are in sin;
- sleeping with someone outside of marriage? - you are in sin;
- divorced and then remarried outside the Church? - you are in sin;
- consulting fortune tellers or mediums? - you are in sin;
- had an abortion, or advised someone to have an abortion? - you are in sin;
- deliberately missing Mass on Sunday? you are in sin;
- going to Holy Communion without confessing grave sin? - you are in sin.
It does not matter to God whether we are in your Sunday best and going to Mass every Sunday because he can see our souls as plain as the nose on our face, and if we are in mortal sin we are to God as ugly as lepers, even uglier.
It does not matter to me if the church is filled to the brim with parishioners if they are not in communion with Jesus and his Church; in other words, not in the state of grace.
If you are in mortal sin there is something you must do first, you must go to confession.
Jesus can make you clean and Jesus wants to make you clean through the absolution given by the priest. What could be more simple?
Do you know that Jesus is so eager to take away our sins that he is willing to become a leper for us? Look at what happens in today’s Gospel: The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived.
Jesus is willing to make himself a leper for us; what more could he do? So what’s keeping us? What’s keeping you?