THE TIES THAT BIND US TOGETHER
Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflections
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B
February 15, 2009
Readings: Lv 13:1-2. 44-46 / 1 Cor 10:31-11:1 / Mk 1:40-45
The conditions described by today’s readings are a perfect example of class distinction, separation, and everything that smacks of segmentation and fragmentation. Whilst not necessarily bad in itself, a misguided, if overzealous dedication to the principles of such ritual class segregations may do more harm than good on the long haul – and a most dangerous atttitude to boot!
Our world of today is rife with not just examples but glaring realities of such categorization of people and even whole nations into disparate groups or blocks that tend, for the most part, to exclude, not include. We talk of the world’s richest nations, the G7, or the so-called group of seven. We talk about the world’s 7 poorest nations who, aping the former, also hold periodic conventions to discuss about things I know not much about. In cities all over the world, people talk of posh districts which are really exclusive enclaves for those who have the time and the money to read – and be featured in - expensive glossy magazines. Chicago has its “magnificent mile” over at Michigan Avenue Northside. LA takes pride in its Beverly Hills row of shops that sell stuff that cost at times literally a lifetime fortune’s worth for people who live hand to mouth in hovels all over the world. The world itself is divided into first and third worlds. In the Philippines, there are malls for the ultra rich, malls for the trying-hard-to-appear rich, and malls for the poor who will never be both – unless, of course, they get the much coveted lotto jackpot! We have housing enclaves for the rich, euphemistically called “villages” in the Philippines, and, for the hoi polloi, we have what is generically called “poblacion” with all the rest passing for shanties and hovels simply not in keeping with human dignity.
The world is divided into pockets of luxury and ever growing, widening swaths of penury and want. The world is mired in exclusivity and millions of the equivalent of the biblical outcast par excellence – the leper – thrive in sub-human conditions in many cases, just a stone’s throw away from the well-heeled politicians and their cohorts who just love those teeming poor…They just love to manipulate them and use them and their vote-rich misguided attachment to these charlatans who think of them only prior to elections day.
The first reading is a perfect backdrop for reflection today for it speaks about ritual segregation: the leper will dwell apart, making an abode outside the camp. The leper, according the Mosaic Law, is automatically an outcast. The leper must show himself to a priest who, again according to law, is the one who declares him ritually unclean. And being unclean, he has to be avoided. He has to shout out to others “unclean, unclean” and any one who touches him becomes unclean himself.
Jesus touched the leper!
One can just imagine how those who surrounded him must have gasped in horror at his selfless gesture. No self-respecting rabbi during his times would have done that. “I do will it. Be made clean.” Jesus, the Savior par excellence, would not be hemmed in by the law and the culture that framed it, and he did what was right for him to do – show a sign that he has come to save, to liberate, to heal, and to bring God’s ultimate act of cleansing, the forgiveness of our sins! Jesus’ gesture shows us a picture of a God that includes, not excludes.
There is an unhealthy mutually exclusive air of conflicting ideologies in the world today. There is one fueled by the ravaging forces of absolute capitalism that excludes God out of the picture and makes a god out of the ability of man to produce, sell and consume. An extreme form of capitalism that makes a virtue out of personal comfort, profit and luxury stands at loggerheads with another ideology based on a misguided, fanatical attachment who rules every aspect of our earthly lives, an autocratic god who is appropriated and domesticated by charismatic leaders who want to establish what they believe is absolute theocracy over the affairs of human beings in the world. Both camps paint each other as evil personified. Both are willing to fight and kill and destroy IN THE NAME OF GOD, in the name of right using MIGHT and MAIN as passports to power and control. Both are mutually exclusive. The forces of absolute capitalism versus the so-called axis of evil!
Today, there is a more powerful force that Jesus shows us…the power of inclusive love and unconditional mercy. Jesus touched the leper. He went the extra mile. He could have relegated the matter to his “assistant.” He could have passed him off as just one more nuisance to be gotten rid of forthwith. But a man of peace that he was, he touched him and healed him, more inside than outside, I am sure.
We live in a fragmented and divided world sorely in need of healing. At the threshold of what seems to be imminent war that produces no winners ever, we are once more face to face not with the evil that is outside of us, but the evil that each of us is really capable of doing, the evil of hatred, the evil of revenge, the evil of all this senseless cycle of violence that is found in the hearts of people from both sides who are all only too willing and ready to kill in God’s name.
As a people, as a nation, as a family of nations and races, as sons and daughters of a God of peace, an inclusive God, the real God that lies hidden behind all this parody of a man-made god who goes enthusiastically to war, we bow down in humble supplication and pray: LORD, TOUCH US AND HEAL US! BRING US CLOSE TO YOU AND WE WILL BE SAVED!
The response to the first reading is apt and well chosen: I TURN TO YOU, LORD, IN TIME OF TROUBLE, AND YOU FILL ME WITH THE JOY OF SALVATION.
I would like you to join the Holy Father and the rest of those who try their best to make people trod the paths that lead to peace to offer continual prayers of supplication that the Lord may touch the hearts and minds of all those who are in power, legitimately or otherwise and who wield enough influence over others and work for their overall good or otherwise cause untold destruction by any means fair or foul to countless peace-loving people, that they may all see the utter folly and futility of it all, and that they may realize that right is never the monopoly of those who have might, that God is on the side of the lowly, the gentle of heart, the peacemakers and those who suffer for righteousness’ sake. In the final analysis, peace, love, forgiveness, humility…these are the genuine ties that will bind all of us together. And everything that passes off as their opposite is that which divides. Let us work for unity, not division.