11 Feb 2024 – 6th Sunday (Year B)

11 Feb 2024 – 6th Sunday (Year B)

(1) Leviticus (13:1-2, 44-46

Lepers had to live apart. Only if a priest pronounced a leper cured could he or she come back into normal life

The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: “When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a leprous disease on the skin of his body, he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. he is leprous, he is unclean. The priest shall pronounce him unclean; the disease is on his head.

The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

Responsorial: from Psalm 32

R./: I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation

Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the Lord imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile. (R./)

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I did not hide.
I said, I confess my faults to the Lord,
and you took away the guilt of my sin. (R./)

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart. (R./)

(2) 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Instead of offending people, we must aim to please them if we can

My brethren, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

Jesus cures a leper by the healing touch of his hand

A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.


Leprosy of the soul

By referring to leprosy in two of the three readings today , clearly the Church wants to direct our attention to something deeper than a purely physical disease. This is confirmed in the Responsorial Psalm, celebrating the joy of those who confess their sins before God, and experience his forgiveness. We might regard sin as a kind of leprosy of the soul. The ancient world used to combat physical leprosy by isolating the lepers, make them live outside the camp or town, and making them cry aloud, “Unclean, unclean!” as a warning to anyone approaching them. Also, whoever had the misfortune to even touch a leper would be regarded as unclean, and would be excluded from the community.

Perhaps there is some parallel to this on the spiritual plane. In the church of Jesus Christ, a sin committed by any member of this community is never a purely private affair, but a rejection in some degree of the standards the members have pledged to uphold. One of the most disturbing sayings of Christ in the gospels was his reference to Judas at the Last Supper: “Not one of them is lost, except the one who chose to be lost” (Jn 17:12).

There is a touching humility in the leper’s request to Jesus, “If you want to, you can cure me.” This appeal was met with compassion by Jesus, who, as St Mark comments,was moved with pity. He went further, stretching out his hand and touching the leper, so making himself unclean according to the law. Shortly afterwards Mark says that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in country places. This compassion for suffering humanity resulted in more and more people coming to him, and even today the outstretched arms of God’s Son on the cross are a never-ending invitation to sinners to seek refuge with him. No longer was the leper, when cured, forced to live apart. After showing himself to the priest he was re-admitted as a member of the community.

What in the past was called confession is now called the sacrament of reconciliation. We should reflect that just as mortal sin is not an isolated act, but rather the culmination of a series of minor infidelities, so reconciliation is a gradual return to God over a period of time, with the reception of the sacrament as the high point, a time to celebrate our joy and gratitude in being at one with God again. This conversion, this newly-found commitment to the Lord is a thing which has to be constantly renewed. There is an enduring need for reconciliation, if we want to love God with our whole strength, and our neighbour as ourselves — the task Christ has set each of us when he said, “This do, and you will live.”

A Word of Thanks

Today’s story may be an early version of the story of the ten lepers. However the point is quite different. In this version the leper, far from not thanking Jesus, goes about shouting his gratitude to all who would listen. The passage is made more obscure by Mark’s literary device of the “Messianic Secret” his recurring claim that Jesus was trying to keep who he was a secret, which today’s scholars regard as just an odd, narrative form. Surely, however, Jesus did not want to be known as the kind of military messiah that so many people in his time wanted and expected.

The predicament of the leper in the time of Jesus was truly pathetic. Those unfortunates were debarred from all social life, both religious and commercial. We might try to explain their plight with examples from one’s local surroundings, although it is difficult to find such an all-embracing boycott, in modern cultures.

Jesus crosses social and religious boundaries in order to cure the leper. But before this could happen, the leper had the courage to break the Law of the Old Testament and approach Jesus. The outcast had such a high opinion of this holy man that he risked a rebuke from him for ignoring the normal prohibitions. At the heart of the encounter, compassion moves Jesus not only to respond with a word of encouragement, but also to reach out and touch him. Here Jesus shows us God’s attitude to human disability. He wishes to reach us in our weakness and restore us to fullness of life.

It is not enough that the outcast is restored to health. Without the permission of the priest he could not regain his place in society and would remain an outcast. Jesus wants to reestablish communion in a broken human family. Leprosy drove people away from others through the fear of the healthy that they would contract the dread disease Jesus wants to remove these barriers between human beings and set up a communion that is free and harmonious. We might apply this to our own community by instancing types of bias and prejudice that exist locally and invite people to ask the Lord to heal whatever keeps them at a distance from certain others. Continuing reconciliation is necessary as we go through life and receive various types of hurts, which could make us withdraw from others as the leper did. It requires the courage of the leper to bring these hurts and fears to the Lord for healing.

A different homily could be built on the second reading. Paul’s emphasis on thought for the other’s good is a reminder that none of us can ignore. He does not pander to the desires of others, but in a generous spirit thinks of how his actions might affect them. He wants to imitate the Lord, who loved his brethren even unto death. Paul wants to love them in their weakness and to work for their advantage. This type of attitude is unto the glory of God in ordinary things, such as eating and drinking. It resembles the practical advice given by Matthew in 18:10 that no one can ignore anyone else, even the least.

Healing the isolated

We all need to connect with others, to be in communion with them. We don’t like to feel isolated or cut off from family, friends, or the wider community. One of the most challenging aspects of sickness or disability can be the isolation that it brings. When we are ill or our body grows weak we cannot take the same initiative we used to take to connect with others. People can become housebound because of their physical condition; the things they used to do to meet up with others are no longer possible. Certain forms of illness can be more isolating than others. The most isolating form of illness in the time of Jesus was leprosy. For hygienic reasons, lepers had to live apart, ‘outside the camp’, in the words of today’s first reading. Lepers were only allowed to have each other for company. They lived apart from their family, their friends and the community to which they belonged.

The leper in today’s gospel seemed determined to break out of his isolation. He did something that was unconventional and daring in approaching Jesus and pleading on with him, ‘If you want to, you can cure me.’ His desperation to be healed of an illness that kept him totally isolated drove him to do something that was against the Jewish Law at the time. In response to the leper’s daring approach, Jesus did something just as unconventional. He reached out his hand and touched the leper. If it was forbidden for a leper to approach the healthy, it was certainly forbidden for a healthy person to touch a leper. It seems that the leper’s desire to be freed from his isolation was met by an equally strong desire on the part of Jesus to deliver the leper from his isolation. The gospels portray Jesus as someone who worked to deliver people from their isolation, whether it is an isolation imposed by illness, as in the case of the leper, or by their lifestyle, as in the case of someone like Zacchaeus.

Both Jesus and of the leper have something to say to us about steps we can take to connect with people, to break out of our isolation, even when the odds seem to be stacked against us. We can all be tempted from time to time to retreat into our shell, whether it is because of our health or some disability or some past experience that has drained us of life. It is at such times that we need something of the initiative and daring energy of the leper. There can come a time when, like the leper, we need to take our courage in our own hands and, against the conventional expectation, to head out in some bold direction. It was desperation that drove the leper to seek out Jesus. Sometimes for us too, it can be our desperation that finally gets us going, gets us to connect with that person who matters to us and to whom we matter more than we realize or gets us to link up with some gathering or some group that has the potential to do us good or maybe even to transform our lives. Sometimes I can be amazed at the initiatives that some people take to connect with others, people who are much less healthier than I am and are much less physically able. I come across it all the time in the parish — older people who have mastered the internet and have come completely at home with Skype; younger people who in spite of some serious disability have found the means to live a very full life that is marked by the service of others. The man in today’s gospel who approaches Jesus could well be the patron saint of all those who strive to connect with others against all the odds.

Unlike the leper, Jesus was perfectly healthy, but he had something of the same desire and energy to connect with others. When approached by the leper, he could have turned away, as most people would have done. Instead, Jesus stood his ground and engaged with the leper, reached out to him not only by word but by action. He not only spoke to him, but he touched him. Jesus often healed people by means of his word alone; but this man who had suffered from extreme isolation really needed to be touched. Jesus did more than was asked of him; he took an initiative as daring as the leper’s move towards him. He went as far as any human being could go to deliver this man from his isolation. What the Lord did for the leper he wishes to continue doing through each one of us in our own day. There are many isolated and lonely people among us. The scope is there for all of us to take the kind of step that Jesus took towards the leper. Again, I can see examples of that in the parish all the time — people who look in on neighbours and make sure that they are all right and have what they need. There are always people among us waiting to be touched by our compassionate presence. When they are, they can experience the same kind of transformation as the leper did in today’s gospel.


  1. In the 1980’s I was a hospital chaplain and was called to anoint a man. I did so without any of the usual protective gear that became commonplace later when AIDS was identified. I had two very powerful experiences the first was visiting a young man who’s struggling to come to terms with his relationship with God. His doctor came to the door and asked a question then left hurriedly. The young man turned to me and said “Everyone is so fast.”

    It turned out that I was in the hospital and after numerous tests i was asked to take an AIDS test, because I may have had an open wound on my hand. It took several days for the results to come back. The fear and the questions and the immediate possibility of a very painful death and the threat of scandal became my companions on that three day journey. We no longer treat AIDS patients as lepers as we did then. But do we still harbour fear and loathing of members of our society because of who they are?

  2. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    Whatever may be the problem, believe that Jesus can solve it!!

    Testimony: “Few months back I suddenly experienced mental scruples. I suffered immensely because of it. Because of it I got ulcers, heart palpitations, chest pain, chest burning and so on. Also I could realize that whatever God has planned for me to do in my life, I couldn’t do it. I could not live my life to the fullest. But I couldn’t find an end to my mental illness. I was telling myself that God is called as ‘Almighty’, but even He cannot cure my disease. One day I got a revelation that sin cannot be just like that ‘I fell into sin suddenly’, it is a gradual process, the root cause being evil desire. So I need to overcome sin by having control over my thoughts of evil desire. Similarly, I can get over mental scruples, by having control over my thoughts. It freed me for sometime, but slowly I saw a relapse. Then not knowing what to do I knelt down and prayed. With immense difficulty I prayed and I was attending the adorations on youtube. Suddenly I was able to trust that God is Almighty and He can and He will surely free me from my mental scruples. Once I trusted in my Jesus, I got freed from it. Then all my physical ailments started vanishing slowly, since the stress within me was its rootcause. Now I am leading a normal life.”

    From the above testimony we learn that we can work through any challenge in our life with God. God is our only hope and our only solution provider. Solution may come through people, but God is the one who provides the solutions for all agonies. Like the person above, when we look at the problem the problem will look bigger than God though in reality God is mightier than the problem. It works like this – God tells us “you can do it”, while the problem says “you cannot do it”. Whether we do it or not depends on our decision – which path we take. We can take God’s way and say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Let us keep repeating it, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. God will definitely open all doors of possibilities for us.

    Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “I’ve set life and death before you today: both blessings and curses. Choose life, that it may be well with you — you and your children.” So there is always a choice in front of us. We know what is right and wrong. So if we choose the right thing now, it will give life for us later.

    In today’s Gospel reading, though the leper has a huge problem he trusted in the power of our Lord Jesus. He said, “If you choose, you can make me clean”. In fact he said, “I know that you can make me clean. Just your pity on me will make me clean”. Our Lord Jesus was moved with pity on the leper and our Lord cured him. The leper’s faith in our Lord Jesus got him cured.

    Let us assume if the leper felt that his illness was too big for Jesus to cure, then he wouldn’t have got cured. The leper would have said, “I have pity on me and cure me if you can”. Then our Lord Jesus would have said, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

    What do we believe? Do we believe that Jesus can solve our problem? Then let us say, “I know that my Lord Jesus can solve this problem”. Then He will. That situation will change.

    Are we frightened about our children’s future? Are we worried about our health or finances? Believe that our Lord Jesus will transform our situation. The situation will get transformed.

    We believe that our Lord Jesus is our God, and with His great sacrifice we will be forgiven and we will enter and rest in Heaven. But do we believe that our Lord Jesus can make us enjoy the peaceful rest on earth too. In the world we can be busy doing lots of work, but only if we enjoy rest inside can we be highly productive outside. To make our inner person rest, in the midst of all the chaos, we need to believe in our Lord Jesus. Our outer person may get worked out and exhausted but our inner person should be always resting peacefully.

    Testimony: “Earlier I used to keep thinking worriedly. But then I started thinking, “Whatever happens Jesus, any ways You are going to take care of me”. It gave me lots of joy and also I felt that Jesus was listening to all my thoughts. Because for whatever things I believed and said, “Jesus, anyways You are taking care of me”, that problem would be easily solved. Instead of wondering what I was going to do in this one hour of break, if I said, “I know that you are going to make me enjoy this hour of my break”, the Holy Spirit would give me bright ideas to enjoy my break. Keeping Jesus always near to us is a cool idea to live.”

    God created us to live happily and peacefully. Since we have our Lord Jesus near to us, there is no big mountain that we cannot conquer, no Red Sea that cannot part, no door that cannot open, no Goliath that can stand against us. Our Jesus will definitely save us. All we need to do is to believe in our Lord Jesus and always commit our ways to Him.

    Walking with Jesus is walking in Victory!!

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