Lanie LeBlanc OP
Barbara Cooper, OP
Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
reflection can be here!)
Sun. 6 B
Our Gospel story reveals what a truly remarkable person
Jesus was. His kindness and caring were so prominent
throughout his life! How can we, Jesus's followers, reflect
the same presence/ Presence in our broken world today?
Our first reading tells us that the horrors of leprosy
long ago ostracized the person who contracted it to a life
away from family and community, to be set apart with only
other lepers. The isolation and loneliness must have been
crushing to the person's spirit. Then here comes Jesus in
the Gospel story, a man who cared enough to TOUCH a leper as
part of his healing!
Who today is ostracized in your corner of our society? Is
it those with certain illnesses including mental illnesses?
Is it a group of people who are "different" in some
recognizable way? Those who are refugees, undocumented,
unemployed or homeless, those who deal with problems
relating to alcohol or drugs, or those who are not
heterosexual, all seem to be likely candidates to be among
the marginalized. Each one needs Jesus to be in his/her
Fear plays an important and often subtle role in our life
and actions. We may not be a risk-taker by nature, but at
some point, we need to balance that part of us with our call
as followers of Jesus to be compassionate. I need to sit
with that one myself even as I write it!!!
I think it is unrealistic to throw caution to the wind
and become an instant crusader in this fight. It is indeed a
fight within oneself and against society's view of who is
OK. It is also not something to be ignored if we want to
grow spiritually to be more of an authentic Christian.
So what do we do? In my opinion, a good start is to
examine prayerfully why we are a bit standoffish or
downright scared when we encounter a particular person or
situation that seems so difficult. Education wipes way fear,
so start reading about the trait or illness or situation or
group as well as what has been proven to be effective in
breaking down barriers in this area. Then pray again about
the terms "a person's behavior" and "a person's intrinsic
worth", remembering that no one is perfect except God and
each of us (even "them") are made in God's image. A bold
step might be to talk with a person in such a situation as
part of a recognized organization and learn about his/her
story. The next time a similar situation arises, there will
be a difference, perhaps a very small one, but it will be
one step forward to acting/reacting more like Jesus.
If none of these situations touches your life, you might
be among the white privileged in the USA as I have meekly
found myself to be. Do check out the President of Seattle
University, Fr. Steve Sundborg, S.J.'s written transcription
of his recent talk on racial justice at
To what length will we go to help someone in our times
who feels ostracized from mainstream society? The only
answer to that will depend on why we think it is important
to do so and the time and effort we will spend to allow
change to happen within ourselves a little at a time. WWJD?
or better yet, what DID Jesus do? seems to be a great nudge
before we ask ourselves once again "what will I do?"
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc
Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time - B - February 11,
Do you ever feel like you just "don't belong"? That life
is unbearably lonely and you are isolated in a small boat
stranded in heavy, dense, fog. That you are abandoned by God
I imagine this is what the leper in today's gospel felt.
In another story, ten lepers approach Jesus for healing. So
maybe some who were expelled from society formed their own
communities. But still, family ties were broken, old friends
lost, and the only bond was a disfiguring illness and
I wonder about the man in today's gospel story. He knelt
before Jesus, trusting Jesus would receive him and help him.
Were other people from a nearby village or town there? Even
if his skin condition was not visible, people would probably
have known him, or about him. Would some of the people in
the crowd pick up stones to punish him and drive him away?
He was breaking the law, and a threat to the health and
ritual cleanliness of others.
Isn't it amazing that people who were outcasts, ritually
unclean, despised by others, felt free to approach and even
touch Jesus? Luke tells us about a woman who was also
"unclean", having suffered from severe bleeding for twelve
years. She sneaks up behind Jesus and touches the edge of
his cloak, an act of extreme trust and daring due to her
condition. And she is healed.
The leper in today's story is also daring. "If you wish,
you can make me clean".
Jesus is deeply stirred. Think of the times when seeing
the suffering of others moved you to tears, and even to
action. We might say today that he "felt it in his gut".
Jesus looks at this man, their eyes meet, and Jesus says:
"Of course I want to". The leper is healed and restored to
his loved ones.
The ending of this story is a bit confusing. Did Jesus
really expect this man to be quiet about the affair,
especially since he had to present himself to the priest for
confirmation of his healing! Or is Mark telling us something
about Jesus and our expectations of him? And his
expectations of us?
What do you think?
Sixth Sunday of Ordered Time February 11 2018
Leviticus 13:1-2 & 44-48;
Responsorial Psalm 32; 1st Corinthians 10:31- 11:1; Gospel
Acclamation Luke 7:16; Mark 1:40-45
Craft-persons who work with the wonderfully diverse
fibers found in wood soon discover the uniqueness of each
wood from various trees. Cocobolo is such a difficult wood
to shape because of its density – yet its basic orange with
black and subtle veins of dark red is remarkably beautiful
and the extra effort to shape it are rewarded. Walnut is a
beautiful wood that responds to the application of steel
with a lustrous satin finish. The pinkish hue of wild cherry
and sycamore delight the eye with their gentleness, depth,
and sense of kindness. The beauty of these gifts of nature
in the hands of a skilled crafts-person provides us with
useful and comforting furnishings that please the eye and
lift us up with their artistry. Yet the natural beauty of
all wood becomes less than trash when the wielder of chisel
and saw and lathe lacks pleasing measures of proportion,
symmetry, and ornamentation. Expert crafts-persons are
skilled in measuring down to the smallest portion of a
centimeter, of a thirty-second of an inch. We say of a
beautiful creation that it meets the mark of artistry.
Meeting the mark, the maker’s mark, is how made things are
pleasing to the eye and useful for life. In like manner, the
beauty of a human life is determined by a measure, as it
were a maker’s mark. That is the standard of how our lives
are measured in truth and spirit. Failing to meet the mark
is failing to achieve the wonderful beauty of character, to
make use of the possibilities of human life with which the
creator offers us.
When the Hebrew tradition speaks of human failing, that
tradition speaks of sin as failing to meet the maker’s mark.
Something about our behavior, about our character, is out of
whack with the "maker’s mark." For a Jewish theologian, sin
is missing the mark of what we are, of how we were created
in the image and likeness of the Creator. The potential
instilled in us as newborns is ready for our choices and
choices in agreement with the Marker’s Mark grow and expand
the depth and wonder of our character.
Another way of thinking about it comes from the rituals
of Yom Kippur. We know this perhaps better as the Day of
Atonement. The word "Kippur" literally means "shining up" as
in polishing silverware or cleaning a dirty, clouded mirror.
The understanding is that throughout the year, the dirt and
grime of decisions and actions chosen with no consideration
or consciousness of what God wills covers over the image and
likeness that is an essential element in God’s creation of
us. So the Day of Atonement is a time for polishing up the
silverware so we can see ourselves reflected there: it is
the day of polishing the mirror, getting rid of the dirt and
grime that clouds our perception of the image and likeness
of God in which we were and are created and being recreated.
Sin is missing the mark, the objective and true measure by
which we evaluate ourselves as creatures whose lives reveal
what God is. That we are in God’s image and likeness is a
continual revelation of God in the material world.
The first reading this Sunday makes more sense to us if
we keep in mind this understanding of sin. A leper is one
who is unclean in comparison with the holiness of God. God
is the maker who is the measure of what it means to be
whole. God is the standard by which we measure if we are a
thing of beauty and a revelation of God’s creative power.
Because of this uncleanness, the leper – actually anyone
with skin problems – is not allowed to worship God with the
community. More than that, the leper is not allowed to
participate in the social and economic life of the
community. The human spirit cannot long survive without
social interaction and some share in the economic processes
of human life. The uncleanness of the leper was thought to
be contagious not only physically, but also as an
uncleanness of the spirit of the person. The focus is on
safeguarding the life of the community. Because the leper –
or the one possessed, born blind, lame, ill mentally or
physically – is a threat to the safety of the community the
leper is a throw-away persons. The understanding of the
Hebrew nation is that uncleanness is not only an individual
matter, but has an effect on the community’s thriving and
In this context we gain a better understanding of Mark’s
gospel. In just a few words, there is so much about our
faith that we may easily overlook the lessons contained.
Without knowing Judaism’s understanding of disease,
possession, addiction, and sin we’ll reach only a surface
appreciation of the narrative. If we dig deeper we’ll
discover more to the message than a miracle of healing.
First, the leper came to Jesus – contrary to the rules of
Leviticus. Lepers were to stay removed from healthy persons.
Yet this leper came close to Jesus, kneeling at his feet in
an attitude of a beggar. Mark tells us Jesus was "moved" to
pity. The Greek word Mark uses to describe Jesus being
"moved" is more a gut-wrenching empathy at the pain of this
leper. Jesus understands the pain of rejection and isolation
this leper feels. Jesus is forbidden by the Law of Moses to
touch this man or have any close contact with him. To touch
this leper would make Jesus unclean and deny him
opportunities for worship and social and economic engagement
with the community until he was certified by the priest as
purified. Yet Jesus by word and action cured him. Jesus
touched a leper! What a scandal and a denial of the law his
actions were! By this action, Jesus tells us to look into
the pain of those around us – the sick, the outcasts, the
immigrant, the homeless, the children abused, the outcasts
of society, those on the margin because of language,
disfigurement, those who are outside society, those who have
no part in the economic life of our culture. By looking into
the pain, we should be moved to empathy. We should be moved
to touch and to bring healing to these people. This is a
revelation of what God is. God’s character is visible by his
continual compassion, mercy, and empathy for his creation.
If we are to be whole (holy) we must imitate this
characteristic of God.
The leper realized his condition and how it separated him
from the life of the nation, of the community. He came to
Jesus with faith – "If you wish, you can make me clean."
Place ourselves in the role of the leper. Do we know what
separates us from the Community, the Body of Christ? What is
our illness, what sickness that separates us from the social
and economic life of the Body of Christ? What do we cling to
that blocks our vision of the image and likeness of God that
is essential to our individual personalities, our character?
Early in my forty year career in Human Resources I
participated in a team building exercise. One of the games
of that program involved pieces of paper. The goal of the
exercise was to create a perfect square with the pieces of
paper by exchanging -- in silence – pieces of paper with the
other eleven at the table. I had just been hired and was
anxious to be accepted, to be looked upon as an asset to the
management team. I was so proud that I was first to form a
perfect square. I struggled with trying to understand the
awful stares of the others at the table. They were angry,
frustrated, and pointedly indicated I should release some
pieces. It took a while but eventually I surrendered my
pride of accomplishment and began letting go. In moments the
team formed its communal square. What a wonderful first
impression I made!
Perhaps I’m a one-off example and that no one else ever
focuses on themselves to the exclusion of the Body of
Christ. But I doubt it. What sort of leprosy is our
specialty? For nearly a century, our Church focused on
individual spirituality. It was about my sin and my
relationship with God. Our growth in holiness turned in on
ourselves. Sin was an offense against God. Yet, the nearly
two thousand year history of Catholic tradition is focused
on community. It is in community that we grow in holiness.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation does work to reconcile us
with God but also with community. Whenever we miss the mark
of the Creator, we rend the fabric of human life, cloud the
image and likeness we are to the world. The study of the
history of thinking about the Sacrament of Reconciliation
has begun to focus more on communal gatherings with personal
confession and absolution in community. This focus is not a
matter of mass produced reconciliation, a concession to
priest shortage. It is meant to teach us, to call our
attention to the fact that all sin is a sin against God’s
creation. Reconciliation is not some ethereal thing between
God and me: reconciliation is reconciliation with God’s
creation. This return to harmony with God’s intention for us
is essential for our mental health and for our ability to
survive. It is salvation for us who find ourselves outside
the community, living in conflict with the image and
likeness installed within us by the Creative Father. Jesus
the Christ comes to us and invites us to return to our
rightful and nourishing place in the human community in
which God wills we discover the wonder that we are. The
fibers of the "wood" that we are God forms into a thing of
beauty. As we sing in the Responsorial Psalm – "I turn to
you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy
"The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face
shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon
you kindly and give you peace!"
Carol & Dennis Keller
=========Ash Wednesday February
Joel 2:12-18; Responsorial Psalm 51; 2nd
Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
The beautiful first reading from the prophet Joel stirs
our hearts as we begin to focus in this season of
preparation for the great revelatory mystery of salvation
that is Holy Week. The reading encourages us to think about
ourselves and how we’ve been living. What is there about our
choices, about how we think of ourselves, about how we
relate to our families, about how we interact with our
community, with those who work with us, how we treat
customers, how we view persons who subsist on the margins of
society? The saying of Jesus about criticizing our neighbor
for the speck in his eye while overlooking the beam in our
own eye comes to mind. How quickly we judge others and moan
and groan about their lack of conscience! All the while we
paint over the rotten wood of our lives effectively
absolving ourselves of our weakness and errors.
It’s a difficulty that Ash Wednesday this year and the
celebration of Valentine’s Day are on the same day. The
displacement – for a day – of abstaining from sweets are
delayed for Thursday. What a conflict! But why do we abstain
from things, why do we give up for lent things of pleasure
and satisfaction? We teach our children about Lenten
sacrifice but stumble when they grow up enough to ask what
good it does. Most of us focus on the doing penance as a way
of purifying ourselves, of making us focus on letting go of
habits and choices that are sinful. We miss the ancient
tradition of taking the resources we would have used for our
pleasure and providing help to the poor and marginalized. If
we only save our resources for use after the Lenten fast is
completed, we’ve given up nothing, only delayed our
pleasure. As a child I remember pigging out on candy put
aside during Lent as soon as the clock struck noon on Easter
Saturday. Penance was only a delay of pleasure not a
surrender of it.
However, it is more to the point with the readings for
this day that we examine our life and look for where we miss
the standard of life that is God. We seem hard-wired to
protect ourselves from criticism. We have a hard time
saying, "I’m wrong," or "I made a mistake," or "I need to
change my view of others," or "I need to not let others
mislead me," or saying "I’m sorry" to someone lesser than
me. In the gospel for Ash Wednesday, Jesus instructs us to
look at our personal motivations for doing penance. Penance
is the way to overcome those things that cover over the
errors of our choices. In Lent we set aside the standards
for success the Way of the World tells us are the only
standards. Power, wealth, influence, and celebrity are
outside those who possess them. They are like the grasses
that flower so quickly at dawn but fade and decay by noon.
The interiority and value of the human person is much more
than the way of the world holds out to us as success.
What is the success of the Christian? It is an imitation
of God. The good news, the Gospel, is the revelation of what
God is. God, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, is portrayed
as merciful, compassionate, and filled with an overwhelming
"loving kindness." The Second Vatican Council developed in
its documents three characteristics of the church. These
three things are solidarity, subsidiarity, and collegiality.
Solidarity means that we are Catholic, that is, that we
universally embrace all humanity in its diversity as worthy
of God’s mercy and compassion. Subsidiarity means that
decisions are made at the lowest possible level – a
contradiction to autocracy and despotism. The principle of
subsidiarity is based on the value and worth of each
individual. Everyone has dignity and worth and must be
respected as an individual who possesses the image and
likeness of God within their person --- all persons are
created equal: ALL persons. The third principle of
collegiality has to do with decision making – well more than
that. Collegiality is a way of decision making but more. It
insists that the experience of each person has something to
add to an understanding and application of God’s revelation
in human history and explains the value and worth of each
life. If we are thoughtful and think about God in the light
of these three principles, we can identify subsidiary with
the working of the Father who shares with the persons of the
Son (the Word) and the Spirit his divinity. It is the Son
who through his incarnation is in solidarity with creation,
sharing their lives and their death. It is the Spirit who
binds together the persons of the Father and the Son into a
unity of oneness, a collegiality of living, human beings.
First, then as we begin Lent, let us examine our
characters and measure ourselves against the measure that is
the revelation of God. How do we match up with the Maker? As
we discover the flaws in our character, we need a plan, an
effort to develop our characters in alignment with the Mark
of the Maker. As we disassociate ourselves from the measures
of the world by penance, we must apply those economic
savings to the benefit of the poor, the widows, the orphans,
the immigrant, and those who are forgotten and excluded from
society and from our economic processes.
The celebration of Ash Wednesday appeals to most of us.
Many who attend Sunday worship infrequently will attend Ash
Wednesday. We are signed with ashes – created by burning the
palms from the preceding Palm Sunday celebration. The pomp
and circumstance of last year’s Palm Sunday is reduced to
ashes. How fitting to use the remains of pomp and
circumstance to remind us of the passing nature of the
measures of the Way of the World.
But there is another aspect to "ashes." The minister of
the ashes reminds us, "Remember you are dust and to dust you
will return." The dust of which we are made is the dust in
the book of Genesis from which God created humanity. If we
remember the story, it is on the sixth day that God creates
living beings – animals. At the completion of the living
beings out of the dust of the earth – dust that had been
made life-giving by the waters of the heavens, the streams,
and the lakes – God takes some of the moistened dust and
molds in into the shape of a man. He doesn’t make this form
a living being by his word only. Instead, God stoops down
and breathes into the nostrils of the clay form his own
breath, breath that is essential to human life. So even
though we are from dust, we are different from the living
beings, the animals. We have something in us that is
different, more than the living beings – the animals. In the
other story of the creation of humanity the narrative
insists that God creates humanity in a different manner.
Genesis begins this narrative by God speaking to himself.
"Let US make mankind in our own image and likeness." These
two stories are not in conflict with each other – we can’t
say which of these is accurate and in truth it makes no
difference. The message is not process, but a statement of
who we are and the source of our dignity and worth. Each of
these stories has something to tell us about what we are.
Even though we are corruptible, what makes us different is
the truth that we are true reflections of the image and
likeness of God.
If we think of Ash Wednesday in this fuller way, we see
Ash Wednesday as an opportunity to achieve the possibility
of who we are as individual persons and as a collective Body
that has been redeemed and assumed into the Body of Christ,
the risen one.
"The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face
shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon
you kindly and give you peace!"
Carol & Dennis
LEPERS IN OUR LIVES: 6TH SUNDAY B