Judaism was a religion of compliance & perfection.. God’s chosen people had to live up to his highest expectations ..dutiful healthy & clean ..so when a case of leprosy, disease imperfection occurred the sufferer literally had to be “outed”..declared by religious equivalent to local GP infected contagious & excluded.. how many once healthily practising Catholics now live survive subsist out there because a priest declared them sinful unclean & excluded?..still & always a beloved brother or sister in Christ, & sadly still discouraged from receiving the Body of Christ.. we approach this Mass with our own form of disease/ leprosy which distances us in conscience, if not in physical proximity, from those around us here & now..we ask our high priest, Jesus Christ, to pronounce us diseased, seriously ill & thereby given special status & immediate attention..
“..the man is leprous ; he is unclean..” ; Lord have mercy “..he must shield his upper lip & cry “unclean unclean” ; Christ have mercy “..he must live apart..he much live outside the Church..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..it is still first days of Jesus’ ministry, a rookie still learning ropes, & a leper approaches him..imagine what you & I would do if someone suspected of deadly ebola virus or even latest virulent flu virus approached us..instead Jesus didn’t just allow leper to approach he touched him..please don’t tell me because he was Jesus Son of God he was immune..not at all “a man like us in all things but sin” open to disease sin infection..he took risk just as leper had first taken a risk in approaching him..risk takers discover the extraordinary.. hear humility of leper “if you want to, you can cure me” no expectation no qualification, no sob story of how he lost his way in Catholicism 35yrs ago , just humble raw faith..& Our Lords response in mood & in sense, is what we hope & pray for when we approach him in desperate need of a cure for our disease or that of a loved one “of course I want to, be cured” & he was “at once” no conditions no delay no staged recovery “he was cured” & then Part 2 , when religion rather than faith kicks back in..a two part Part 2 & notice he “sternly ordered”; feel climate change..”say nothing to anyone” then “go show yourself to the priest” don’t talk about it, folk won’t believe it of you, nor of Jesus..its too good to be true, too extraordinary unless you believe, & so many of us today have given up on belief in God, in their closest loved ones, in themselves, & sadly for us, in the Church..”show yourself to the priest”; the spiritual GP who will issue your final sick note, certificated as fully recovered, healthy enough to return to full practice full membership & work in this spiritual vineyard, & to go out & bear fruit..& of course, offering the brown envelope £5 note preferably gift aided..its got that stale taste of organised religion not the organic spirituality we were made for , to enjoy to grow on & to leave better for our footprint & heartbeat.. & when we approach the priest for his validation of our healing & recovery on behalf of the local faith community in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, how is it?..how do you feel approaching the moment?..where is it “celebrated” if indeed it is celebrated, a moment of profound humility for the priest as well as the penitent..“of course I want to..”..is it face to face with the opportunity for that steady divine look of gentleness love & compassion, or is it voiced through a grille & a screen with a façade of anonymity?..is it shaped & worded starchily by rubrics & the General Instructions of the Catholic Church?..& then thankfully in practice, in those 10mins or an hour, does it melt deepen & weaken into a moment of life transformation? ..it began with a Peter at the fireside moment..“woman, I do not know him” [three times], on into a Gethsemane “father take this cup of suffering from me” & into an Easter garden of Resurrection when all he needs whisper is your name..“Mary..John”.. “bless me Father for I have sinned..it is 70yrs since my last Confession” one of many gifts blessings of priesthood is to voice & face the loving forgiveness of the Church to each & every leper who knocks on this Surgery door..maybe that is why our Village Surgery have settled so comfortably & at home into our Parish House, where healing meets healing..leprosy cancer depression or unworthiness..”through the ministry of the Church, may the Lord give you pardon & peace”..my words voiced on behalf of you all.. & bless him, leper did what came naturally & supernaturally, he told his story everywhere..if only we would tell our own story of healing & recovery more often & convincingly..this would be the value added for me, & by relationship, for you too.. on a Sat morning between 11am & 12noon I would be inundated by folk, like the leper, already cured by Jesus, coming to see me on your behalf to ask for a final sick note which reads “return to ministry” “your faith has saved you, go in peace”.. ..& it all began because one leper had the faith to ask ..& will you?.. [ 6thSunYrB Mk 1; 40-45]