Our scripture continues the theme of faith but faith associated with healing and giving thanks. Naaman is healed in the first reading by Elisha’s faith. And Christ heals the lepers, though only came back to thank him. Lets confess ways we fail to give thanks for the healing power of faith in our lives..
Let me tell today’s Gospel as seen by one of the lepers. I am a deformed leper shunned by everyone. People run into houses when they see me. I’ve to shout that I’m unclean. My life is one of endless pain, suffering, loneliness, dirt and poverty; I wish I were dead. Someone please help me. Wait! The healer I’ve heard about, Jesus, is coming. “Holy one of God, have pity on me”, I shout. “Shut up”, his disciples say, “get away from the master, you foul thing”. But I am desperate, I don’t care, I shout louder. Then wonder of wonders, Jesus comes to me. I say, “please heal me”. He touches me, the first time anyone has done so in 20 years. I feel my flesh coming back to life. I can’t believe it, the sores are gone, I’m well. Thank God, hurrah! Now I can go home to my family and live a normal life. Thank you, Lord.
Who in our day has the same story; a person infected by aids? An old person shut up in a home, out of sight and out of mind? The street children excluded from our cozy middle-class world of young perfect TV models. But that world has lepers too, spiritual lepers insulated in big houses from neighbors, ignoring God, too lazy to get up for mass, like Naaman before he met Elisha, caught in the clutches of false gods. To these Christ brings another deeper healing message today, “repent and believe”.
For in some ways sickness of the soul is more serious today and many close themselves from healing. Encased in make-believe TV worlds we don’t want to hear about challenging realities: death, sin, disease, suffering, judgement, God. Once, asked about hell in school, I explained what it was. Later parents complained that I frightened the children. We want to be safe in an escapist TV world from all that challenges us spiritually; listening only to “nice” aspects of the gospel. We cast out those who would remind us of evil and mortality. We turn our face from God and support the secularists who’d exclude Christ’s challenging message altogether. The affluent like Dives shun the beggar at their gate. Yet when in hell, Dives pleaded in vain, it was too late. Now is always the acceptable time, the time to be Christ’s healing presence to the world. Lest the spiritual and physical lepers around us cry out in vain. For As St.Theresa of Avila says: “Christ has no body now on earth but ours”. We’re his healing hands to our broken world, and we mustn’t fail. For so many need his healing presence today, from the tramp to the abandoned street child, to soulless wealth. All are equally important children of God. We are our brother’s keeper. We cant pursue ruthless self-interest like Dives regardless of our neighbor suffering or their need for salvation. For to us no one is a leper. Our Christian family includes the homeless, the refugee, the addict. It includes the agnostic who should be reminded that lack of faith is bad for life let alone the soul. A retired person told me recently that in a course with psychologists to prepare for retirement they were told to keep the faith as vital for their general well-being. And a wise man told me, we should live our life here on earth as we would like to live it for all eternity with God. Helping others as best we can, responding generously to physical spiritual needy. For final glory belongs not the self-serving world but Jesus who, as the song says, has “friends in low places”. Lets enjoy this world but with eyes wide open also to the needs of others and our souls. For hard worldly values fade to ashes at last, leaving us empty before eternity but Christ is lord of healing love, peace, beauty and happiness for this world and forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s own, called to steadfast faith and charity towards the spiritual and physical needy around us, we profess our faith
Prayers of the faithful
And as the people of God in need of God’s healing in every way and giving thanks for his loving care, we pray for what we need..
For the Pope and bishops of the church; may they be examples of heroic healing faith and of constant thanks to God for his love..
For civil leaders that in they may allocate generously to the HSE and always provide free medical care and support for the poor..
For our youth that they may be conscious of those sick and needy around them and not just their own concerns and ambitions..
For ourselves at home, may we be especially helpful towards sick relatives and neighbors; and always give thanks for our families
For the dead that their sickness and suffering over they may come to heavenly home of the blessed, helped by our prayers..
And we ask all these prayers through Christ who is lord of healing love and thankful hearts forever and ever, amen.
A modern day version of the gospel is the story of St.Damian and the Lepers. He ministered as a priest in a leper colony, when no one else would work there. One day before mass, while bathing his feet he found that he could feel nothing, a sure sign that he had got the disease. When he went out onto the altar instead of his usual address he said “we lepers”. They realized he was now truly one of them. We may not be called to such heroism but we all have sick or aged family members who need our simple care. Lets find time for them and spiritual ministry too..Hail Mary