We Are All Lepers

Homily for Friday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time

The leper in today’s Gospel is someone that I think we can relate to in a couple of different ways. First, in a very real sense this year, as someone with leprosy, he knew what it meant to practice social distancing, or physical distancing, or whatever it is they’re calling it now. It was all an effort to keep other people healthy and safe from catching the disease. But, on the flip side of that, it led to many people with leprosy being treated like outcasts in society. And we see how Jesus was responding to that piece of it in this particular Gospel.

In a spiritual sense, we can relate to the leper because each of us here at Mass this morning in some way is unclean. All of us are constantly battling temptation and, many times, despite our best efforts, we fall into sin. Thankfully, most of that is only venial sin and is taken care of by the Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass. But, other times, the sin that we commit requires that we go to confession. Why though?

We often think that, when we sin, that act is a personal thing and only affects us. We’d be wrong to believe that. Whenever we commit a sin, we are cutting ourselves off from communion with God and from communion with the Church, with each other. And so, there is a communal aspect to sin that impacts the larger community of faith. In other words, sin makes us lepers.

The Evil One likes to make us afraid of going to confession; he likes to make us anxious about receiving God’s grace through the Sacrament. The Devil knows what happens in the confessional, he knows that God breaks through in a powerful and offers forgiveness for the things that we have done wrong, forgiveness for the times that we purposely turned away from Him. The Devil doesn’t want us to experience that, so he tries his best to keep us away.

The Lord wants to do the opposite. The Lord wants to cleanse us through that Sacrament. We just simply have to take the first step to make it possible. We have to approach Jesus and echo the words of the leper: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” And every time the Lord’s answer will always be the same: “I will do it. Be made clean.” Will we allow the Lord to cleanse us? Will we allow Him to enter into our hearts and heal us of our leprosy? We have to take the first step. Will you let Him in?

Photo: Terracotta of Christ healing from the Workshop of Luca della Robbia the Younger (1435–1525). Louvre Museum, Paris. Photographer: Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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