Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
For many years as a teacher of composition, I encouraged students to strive for a strong beginning when they wrote, “catch your readers attention”; “make the readers want to read on,” yet while pondering the readings for this day, I am struck by the endings. First to captivate my attention is St. Paul’s ending…could we be so bold? Then the similarities of the first and third readings supply much material for thought. Pondering the words of Leviticus in our first reading, I am reminded of the early days of AIDS when those suffering were so feared, so shunned, so alone. Surely anyone suffering from leprosy was avoided, a source of fear, derision, and isolation. By law, those suffering were required to pronounce themselves “unclean.” Oh how righteous many felt NOT to be like them! The afflicted ones were obliged to “dwell apart, making [their] abode outside the camp.”
The leper in our third reading must have been a student of the psalms for this person “turned to the Lord in time of trouble, and was filled with the joy of salvation.” Living outside the camp, ringing a bell to warn others of one’s presence, crying out, “unclean, unclean…” could hardly encourage anyone to approach, yet his faith and trust propelled this leper; he did not hide his guilt (his sickness), but trust compelled his boldness, and his reward was great.
In our Gospel (our third reading) a leper comes, kneels, and begs saying, “If you will…” It’s like saying, “I know you can, but will you…” Jesus is so moved by his faith; he reaches out and touches the leper…Wow!! Not only is the disease made to vanish, so is any other cause for concern as Jesus announces, “Be made clean.” The miracle is awesome, but it’s the ending of the account that remains with me where Jesus “remained outside in deserted places” – places where lepers were required to remain, yet people kept coming to him. It seems if lepers or sick could not come to Him, He would find a way to go to them!
So that leaves St. Paul’s ending to address. Upon first reading this section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I wondered why it had been chosen, then the last line struck like a ton of bricks, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” What a challenge! As we prepare for Lent, perhaps we might take up Paul’s words as our daily practice…Try to the best of our ability to be an imitator of Christ! Reach out – touch – be kind, be patient…
Sister Miriam Catherine Nevins, O.P.