6th S. 2021: Unclean! Unclean!

Today’s homily is for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 14, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem was a theologian of the early Church who lived around 350 AD. He wisely asked, “Have you run so many circles of the years bustling vainly about the world, and yet you don’t have forty days to be free for prayer for your own soul’s sake?” Ash Wednesday is just a few days away, and we too are called to take a good, hard look at our life, how we spend our time, and how well we live our Christian life. Over these next forty days, I’ll be sharing what the Season of Lent is really all about, and how we can make this journey to Calvary meaningful and transformative for ourselves and our family. 

Let me first start with wishing all of you a happy Valentine’s Day! Just know that Deacon Stephen loves you very much, that I think about you often, and that my desire is for your absolute joy and happiness. St. Pope John Paul II said, “Love wills the good of another.” I do will the very best for you because I love you. Not a sticky, kissy, romantic sort of love (maybe a bit huggy, if I’m being honest), but instead a love that wants you to be strong, and healthy, happy, and holy. That’s the love that God has for us, you know. God desires us to be our very best. 

That’s the sort of love that Jesus had for the leper in today’s Gospel. Lepers were condemned men and women. We heard about the law concerning lepers in the first reading from Leviticus. If you have even a small sore, you cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” The person had to “dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.” Leprosy took everything away, your possessions, friends, family, and eventually your life. Jesus does not want us outside the camp. He wants us inside, with the community, with him. Clean. 

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? We’re not clean. Our over-indulgence in food, drink, and comfort. We seek entertainment and live slothful, unholy lives. We watch shows that we should not. Listen to music that we should not. Treat others in an unloving way, and dishonor our leaders, our pastors, our parents, and others charged with our care. Our leprosy is not on the outside–we care far too much and spend far too much on looking good for that–our leprosy is instead on the inside. We heard on Wednesday last that defilement comes “from within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.” 

And so we cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” and we approach the throne of God’s grace not for justice for we could never stand, but we, like the lepers that we are, approach for mercy, knowing that if he wills it we will be made clean. And that is what Lent is all about–a forty day bootcamp of holiness and sacrifice, of discipline and prayer, of healing and transformation. As St. Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God, and avoid giving offense.” Lent isn’t about eating or not eating, it’s about ending the offense. It’s about plucking out our eye and cutting off the hand that causes us to sin. These next three days should be spent in solitary reflection, prayer, and evaluation of the quality of our Christian life. This is a planning period that is launched on Ash Wednesday. What will you cut off, or pluck out? What will you do to grow in holiness?

Are we yet done running circles and bustling vainly about the world? Can we not commit forty days to be free for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for our own soul’s sake? We shall indeed return to dust, will we go as a leper covered in sores, or ones who have been healed and transformed by our merciful Lord?