2.11.18 Sun. wk 6 – O. T. – B
1st Reading Leviticus 13: 2, 44 – 46
First Corinthians 10: 31 – 11: 1
Gospel – Mark 40 – 45
A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Being the Hands Of †Jesus
For thousands of years lepers were considered – “the walking dead.” Their illness cut them off from family and community, and they existed on the fringes of the city and of society. They were deprived of their dignity and they were treated as inhuman. To most people, at the time of †Jesus, leprosy was a sign of punishment from God for some grave sin that had been committed. But †Jesus who could read hearts, knew differently. His Father, “Abba”, was a kind, loving and compassionate God, not a punishing God.
†Jesus is not afraid of this man, but others who were following †Jesus may have been afraid. †Jesus would not condemn this man to greater isolation by rejecting him as everyone else had done. No one who sought out †Jesus was refused His help, even the untouchables and the outcasts of society. †Jesus did not come into this world to congratulate the worldly, the wealthy and the wise. †Jesus came to lift up the least and the lowest, the blind, the lame, the leper, those who were outcasts. And †Jesus in the Gospel, does the unthinkable. First of all He did not curse the man for approaching Him, which was forbidden by Rabbinic Law for a leper to approach anyone who is healthy. But then, †Jesus reached out and He actually touched him – actually touched him! In that moment – two miracles occurred. †Jesus restored this man’s human dignity by His loving touch and the man was cured of his illness, his leprosy. The man was as good as dead – but †Jesus brought him to life.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Damien of Molokai, imitated †Jesus in their lives; they both ministered to lepers. Their compassion, their love, their touch, restored the human dignity of countless children of God who had been rejected by society. But their charity was not for their own benefit, but, that others could be saved. They wanted the sick to know that there were people who really cared about them and that they too belonged to Christ. This is where our gift – our time – our talent – our treasure – can do the greatest good; when we use what God has given to us, to lift up the least and the lowest, those who are last.
This week we have the opportunity to lift up the least around us, to witness that we possess that loving touch of †Jesus by participating in the Annual Catholic Appeal. This Appeal supports the Mission of the Church beyond Sacred Heart Parish, to the wider Diocese of San Diego that ministers to hundreds of thousands of people who are in need in our local Church.
Pope Francis wrote this: “We cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as a criteria upon which we will be judged. Whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with the sick and those in prison.” We are called to go beyond the minimum in our love for God and others. Sacred Heart Parish, year after year has witnessed our commitment to the generous hands of †Jesus. We have all been recipients of God’s generous love living in this community, but we have also expressed our gratitude by helping others beyond the doors of our Church. Your generosity in the past is known across the United States, because I hear from the people that we send gifts and donations too. We, as a parish also tithe – we tithe our blessings to help others. Recently our parish gave $150,000.00, (along with a donor in our parish) to help fund a parochial school outside of Houston that had been devastated by the hurricane this last summer. Your reach is very long. The touch of †Jesus through you is practically and truly touching other people. You have been generous by imitating the Lord, by being rich in kindness.
Let me just briefly go through what the Annual Catholic Appeal supports. It supports Catholic Charities: the homeless women’s services like Rachael’s House; pregnancy services, the foster-grandparent program, and senior residential services. The Catholic Charity Services also feed the poor, clothe the naked and help the homeless. They provide a network of services and programs that help over 300,000 people annually in the Diocese of San Diego, touching those in need with the loving hands of †Jesus.
The ACA also supports our seminary’s formation program and we know we are in need of more priests. In fact, we have to build new residences at our seminary because we have this influx of young men who are feeling called to the priesthood as a result of our prayers. The Annual Catholic Appeal also supports the work we do to continue the formation of active and retired priests. We have 55 retired priests in our diocese who depend upon the funds from the Annual Catholic Appeal to help sustain them in their senior years after serving you all of their lives with the hands of Christ – “In Persona Christi Capitis”.
The Annual Catholic Appeal also supports our Catholic Schools and most particularly in the – ‘Tuition Assistance Programs’ in the diocese. This enables all children to have the opportunity for a Catholic Education. The children in our school benefit from this program as well. Also, the Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the diocese is where we strive to help young people connect to Christ and His Church through various gatherings. We know that in this secular culture, we want more young people to be ‘the hands of Christ’, so we help to form them. And the Annual Catholic Appeal helps to support Prison Ministry. We have 27 prisons and jails in the Diocese of San Diego and the ACA helps to minister to over 25,000 inmates in those prisons and jails.
What the Bishop hopes to raise this year is 3.5 million dollars through this Annual Catholic Appeal and our fair share of that amount at Sacred Heart is 66 thousand dollars. That is what we are being asked to raise this year. But I want to make one thing very clear – your gift is only for the Mission of the Church that I just outlined for you, nothing else. All the donations go for these practical things.
There is a story about the Del Mar Race Track. This man went to the Race Track and he was hanging outside the paddock area before the races began. He saw a priest there talking to a horse. The priest patted the horse on the head and then he blessed the horse. The man thought that was a nice priest, a St. Francis kind of priest. Then after the first race, he realized that it was the same horse won the race. So he went back to the paddock area and there was the priest again – talking to another horse. He patted the horse on the head and blessed him. That horse won the second race! So the man said to himself: “Wait a minute, this is a good thing”. So he went down to paddock area before the third race, he saw the priest again – talking to another horse, patting the horse on the head and giving him a blessing. He noted the number of the horse, went and bet everything on that horse. The horses came up to the post: “And They Were Off”. Immediately his horse starts lagging behind and loses the race! He comes in last! This man is furious. He goes back to the paddock area to find this priest and he said: “Father, I saw you bless three horses, the first two won – but the third one came in last. I don’t understand”. And the priest chuckled and said: “Well clearly, you are confused. You don’t seem to know the difference between a ‘Blessing’ and “The Last Rites’”.
In our Gospel today, many people at the time of †Jesus were confused as well, they thought leprosy was a punishment from God. †Jesus witnessed differently – it was an opportunity for Him to heal and show the people the love of God. We often are confused as well. We oftentimes don’t know the difference between being asked for donations and being given the opportunity to become ‘the hands of †Jesus’ to help others. This is an opportunity to be that ‘hand of †Jesus’ through the Annual Catholic Appeal. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.