Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called to focus our attention on the Lord and His love for us that He was willing to reach out to us and to rescue us from our deepest troubles and predicaments, to lead us out of the abyss and deliver us from the sufferings we experienced due to sin. And we are all called as Christians to reflect on what our faith truly means for us.
In our first reading today from the Book of Leviticus, Moses revealed to the people of Israel the laws and rules of the Lord, which he delivered to them and asked them to keep in their hearts and minds, and to pass them on from time to time, as they journeyed from the land of Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. And today we focus in particular on the laws regarding the treatment of those who suffered from leprosy, what to be done with them.
At that time, the cause for leprosy was not well known, and the disease was often misunderstood. Leprosy is actually caused by bacterial infection that can be spread through direct contact, either with the other person or with the items that the infected person has been using or wearing. Although leprosy was not particularly infectious and it was actually not easy to contract leprosy unless through frequent contact, but we must then understand the context of the circumstances of the Exodus.
During the Exodus, the Israelites journeyed through the desert and stayed together in a close-knit community due to the harsh desert conditions of the Sinai desert and the other places they journeyed through. As a result, the density of the population within the community was likely quite high and people lived in close contact with each other regularly. And as it was in the desert, where water was scarce and although the Lord did provide water for the people to drink, but it was likely that hygiene might have been a problem for the people then.
As a result, the Law was very strict with regards to leprosy, as an outbreak of leprosy could be dangerous at the time when the people were living in such close proximity. Since leprosy is also a slow-acting and chronic infection that slowly affected those who were infected, allowing the people who got leprosy to roam around freely in the close-knit community could be harmful to the greater community. Hence, those afflicted with leprosy, which showed its symptoms quite clearly, had to stay outside the community until they could prove that they were freed from the leprosy.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what is the significance of this focus on leprosy that we have heard today? In our Gospel passage today we also heard the Lord healing a man who had been afflicted with leprosy. Until that time, over a thousand years after the Law was first revealed by Moses, the rules and traditions of the Law had been preserved and passed down for so long that the original meaning and intention, the context and appreciation of the reason of those rules had been forgotten.
That is why many of the rules and regulations enforced by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often opposed by the Lord, Who came to straighten up the truth and to reveal the true meaning and intention of the Law. He wanted all of us to know that God was not some distant, angry and wrathful God Who demanded total obedience and submission from the people, but rather, a caring and compassionate, most loving and generous God Who will bless all of us and Who seeks to be reconciled with us.
And this is where we then look again at how leprosy had been dangerous for the people back then, and how it affected them, slowly ‘eating’ through their bodies and making them to lose their body parts in time unless they could get the leprosy cured. When the man who had leprosy came to the Lord asking for Him to heal him, certainly he had been suffering and had great predicaments and troubles, being excluded and shut out for his condition. The Lord healed the man and made him good and whole again.
This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is in fact very symbolic of what the Lord Himself would do for our sake, in healing us from another ‘leprosy’ which is far more dangerous than the worldly leprosy. What am I referring to, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the leprosy of the soul, which is sin. Yes, sin is like that of leprosy, a disease and corruption that is even far more dangerous than the bodily leprosy. Why is that? That is because while leprosy only affects the body, sin affects everything, our every aspects of life.
And while leprosy could still be cured, and like how it has been largely eradicated today due to the advance of modern medicine and better hygiene practices, but there is nothing that can be done with regards to sin. Only God alone can forgive us our sins and heal us from its corruptions. That is why, as the Lord came and approached the man suffering from leprosy, not only that He showed us His power to heal earthly diseases, but He also revealed to us how He would also forgive us our sins.
In another miraculous occasion, the Lord healed a paralytic man and said to the man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law immediately made issue with this statement. Yet, the Lord was speaking the truth, that He indeed had the authority to forgive us our sins, and therefore heal us from this leprosy that is eating up on all of us, afflicting us and leading us down the path of suffering.
Now, what matters is whether we are willing to let Him to touch us and heal us, as He did with the man suffering from the physical leprosy. The man who suffered from leprosy wanted to be healed and he also had faith in the Lord. Hence, he was healed and made whole, and happily he went to see the priest so that he could be readmitted into the greater community, no longer exiled and cast out due to his condition.
Sin has also made us to be exiled and cast out, brothers and sisters in Christ, and this is why again it is often referred to as the ‘leprosy of our souls’. It was due to sin that we have been cast out from the Gardens of Eden, separated from God and the fullness of His grace and blessings. Sin corrupted us and made us to be unworthy to stand in God’s presence. We should have fallen into eternal damnation and share the fate of the devil and all of his fellow fallen angels, condemned for eternity if not for the love that God has for us.
God sent us nothing less than the best gift of all, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, through Whom we have been given the sure promise of salvation and healing from our sins, which He alone can heal and forgive. And He generously showed us this forgiveness and compassion, as He gathered to Himself all of our sins, bearing them down upon Himself, on His Cross that He carried up to Calvary. And by dying for us on the Cross, He offered Himself as the perfect offering for our sins, to absolve us from all those combined sins we have committed.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us as Christians are called to reflect on how fortunate and blessed we are to have received God’s truth, and how fortunate we are to have been loved in such a way by the Lord, so generous with His love and so patient in always trying to reach out to us and to forgive us when we seek Him with a heart full of contrition and regret for our many committed sins, as well as the sins of omission that we have had with us.
Have we taken God’s love for granted, and ignored His great love and the great patience He had in dealing with us? Let us not disregard our loving Father’s call for us to Him anymore, and let us respond to Him with a genuine desire to commit ourselves to Him, rejecting all the temptations to sin and to disobey against His laws and commandments.
Let us realise that in God alone we can fully put our trust and be made whole, healed and liberated from all the sins that have held us down and kept us away from the true happiness that can be found with God and Him alone. And as Christians, we should be inspirations and examples to each other in the way we live our lives, filled with faith and virtue, trust in God and righteousness that all who see us and interact with us, may also come to know God through us.
May the Lord remind us always of His love and compassion, His care and dedication towards us that we too may grow in our faith and dedication towards Him, and that we may strive well against the many temptations and pressures that try to keep us away from God and His path. May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us all into life everlasting in Him, and make us all His exemplary and faithful disciples before all the peoples of all the nations. God bless us all, now and always. Amen.