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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

6th SUNDAY (B) February 11, 2018

Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46; Psalm 32; I Corinthians 10: 31-11:1; Mark 1: 40-45

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

6th Sunday

of

Ordinary

Time

 

The first reading stands in harsh contrast to today’s gospel. It comes from a section of Leviticus (chapters 11-16) that deals with the laws of purity for daily and religious life. According to Leviticus, leprosy, or any serious skin disease, was thought to be a sign of a person’s spiritual uncleanness. That person was declared "unclean," through no fault of their own, and was to be excluded from worship and the social life of the community. Israel was to be a holy people without blemish or disorder. An "unclean" person was considered to be in stark contrast to the holiness of God, and a blemish on the community’s purity.

Leviticus was a book of early legislation. Its final form took shape after the Babylonian exile. It was written by the priestly school, which set up rules for the community’s worship. According to the rules of Leviticus, lepers were to be quarantined and not allowed to participate in worship. Since leprosy was thought to be contagious, lepers were also excluded from the community’s social life. In ancient times such expulsion was the equivalent to a death sentence. What kind of life could such people have without human relationships? "They shall dwell apart, making their abode outside the camp."

One author likens people with leprosy to being "living corpses." If such a person were cured, it would be like a resurrection, since it brought the person back into the community’s social and religious life.

Our Catholic tradition puts emphasis on the community. We are not solitary "spiritual people" seeking our own salvation. We grow in holiness and come to full humanity as members of a God-oriented community. When we sin we not only cut ourselves off from God, but from the community of God’s people as well. So, in order to return to God we also need to be reconciled to the community. That is why Jesus instructs the cured man to go show himself to the priests to have his cure confirmed and to welcome him back into the social and religious life of the community.

Today the preacher has an opportunity to speak about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sin is not merely a private affair, but has consequences in the community. The sin we call "mortal" not only is a turning away from God, it is also a separation from the community. We have a choice: to live with God, or live without God. When we realize we have cut ourselves off from God we believe forgiveness is readily available to us. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is our concrete assurance that we truly have been forgiven and are also reconciled with God’s holy people. The sacrament is the community’s welcome back to the member who has turned away from both God and the community.

Ash Wednesday is this week and we begin the season of Lent. We celebrate the season of repentance and change as members of God’s people. The community supports us this season of faith, hope and love by the example of its members and by our liturgical life that prepares us for Easter. We do not grow in holiness alone, but in community with one another. We look around at the people celebrating Eucharist with us today with gratitude for their witness and support in our commitment to spiritual maturity.

The gospel story follows a familiar pattern common to other miraculous cures. First, the dire situation is described – the man has leprosy. Then the cure occurs by word and, in this account, by touch. Finally, there is a demonstration that a cure has occurred – the man is told to go to the priest for confirmation, in accordance with the Levitical law (cf. first reading). The third point shows a typical theme in Mark called "the messianic secret." The man is told not to tell anyone about the cure; but he immediately tells everyone, disregarding Jesus’ instruction.

Let’s pause for a moment and do a brief word study, it may help us as we interpret the story. When the leper approaches, Mark says Jesus was moved with pity for the man. In the original language the word (splanchnizomai) suggests a deep inner groaning. It describes a very physical, gut-wrenching reaction. Jesus just didn’t feel sad for the man’s condition, he felt deep-down empathy and was resolved to help.

Such passion for the suffering of others can be a driving force moving us to do what Jesus did: to comfort and aid the least, the outcast and the despised. There may be all kinds of social restrictions about such action: "They are illegal... criminals... drug addicts, etc." But there are times when we just have to follow our inner feelings and compassion (splanchnizomai) for the suffering of others and do something.

Here is a another word from the original language. When Mark describes Jesus’ healing the man he uses a word (embrimamenos), it literally means a snorting and anger (v. 43). The anger wasn’t directed at the leper, but at the debilitating disease and, in their belief, towards the demon that had control over the man.

Anger – that’s another passion that may move us to act against the injustice leveled against parts of our society and, yes, even towards members of our church. We observe an injustice, we see the innocent oppressed and a righteous anger (embrimamenos) stirs us to do something about it.

Jesus did not want the man to broadcast what had happened to him; he didn’t want to be known merely as a wonder-worker. The cross and resurrection that awaited him would reveal his true identity to the world. Leprosy was seen as a sign of sin and that is the healing Jesus wants to offer to all humanity, a deliverance from the slavery of sin that makes us outcasts to others and even to ourselves. The man’s spreading the news of his cure caused people to be captivated by Jesus’ wonders, thus limiting his ability to proclaim what he had announced at the beginning of Mark’s gospel: "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the Good News" (v. One: 17).

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021118.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"Avoid giving offense"

1 Corinthians 10: 32

This week, on Ash Wednesday, we begin the Lenten season--our time to pay attention to our ongoing conversion. This year, the beginning of our Lenten season also falls on Valentine’s Day, a day when we honor love. How appropriate then, that as part of our ongoing conversion, we practice stretching our love to include those we may not normally be moved to love--the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the impoverished, the immigrant, the prisoner, the homeless, the other… Each person has a face and a story, one that can enrich your life and your spiritual journey. For our parish, participation in Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl is a tradition and also a way to exercise our heart muscle. In CRS words:

"We are invited to reflect on how an encounter with our neighbor—as companions on life’s journeys—can be transformative. We will see how our prayers, fasting and alms can support those worldwide who are forced to flee their homes to find safety or better opportunities. . .

Through prayer, we encounter Christ, present in the faces of every member of our human family, so often still walking that long road to Calvary.

Through fasting, we encounter our own obstacles, those things about ourselves that prevent us from loving God and neighbor.

Through almsgiving, we encounter our brothers and sisters around the world, asking what we can give up so that others might have life to the fullest.

Through CRS Rice Bowl, we hear stories from our brothers and sisters in need worldwide, and devote our Lenten prayers, fasting and gifts to change the lives of the poor. Each day of Lent, individuals are invited to use the Lenten Calendar—included with every CRS Rice Bowl—to guide their Lenten almsgiving. These daily almsgiving activities—for example, give 25 cents for every faucet found in your home—help families reflect on the realities of our brothers and sisters around the world and how they can be in solidarity during the Lenten season."

CRS Rice Bowls will be distributed to Cathedral and Faith Formation student families and will be available in the narthex next weekend for others.

Sign up to get weekly Lenten inspiration and/or get the app and learn more about Rice Bowl, and how it relates to Lent, visit http://www.crsricebowl.org/about

Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand,

touched the leper and said to him,

"I do will it. Be made clean."

Reflection:

When Mark describes Jesus healing the man he uses a word that literally means a snorting in anger (v. 43). The anger wasn’t directed at the leper, but at the man’s debilitating disease. Anger is a passion that may move us to act against the injustice leveled against those without voice, or rights. When we observe an injustice, see the innocent oppressed, a righteous anger should stir us to do something about it.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What injustice do we observe that stirs us to anger?
  • How shall we respond to what so moves us?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Carl Moseley #0294214 (On death row since 10/1/92)
  • Nathan Bowie #0039561 (2/5/93)
  • William Bowie #0039569 (2/5/93)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
  • One combined CD for "Liturgical Years A, B and C."

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626


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