From the Pastor's Desk

What cross have I been avoiding that I should accept during this time in the Lenten desert?

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

All three readings today teach us that we are called to become pure and holy.

But we don’t become holy by some ritual observances. We become holy by confessing our sins to God and offering our lives for God’s glory and by sharing God’s love with everyone around us without discriminating against anyone based on color, race, culture, religion, lifestyle, wealth, or social status.

The word Vayikra (the Hebrew name of the Book of Leviticus) means that God called Moses and His chosen people to holiness and purity. That is why the first reading teaches the theme of freedom from bodily and ritual impurity as a sign of internal holiness. This freedom is symbolized by the precautions against contracting leprosy given in the first reading and by the healing of the leper described in the Gospel. The first reading shows the ancient Jewish attitude toward leprosy and gives the rules for the segregation of lepers. This provides a background for Jesus' healing of a leper.

In today's Responsorial Psalm (Ps 32), the psalmist says: “I confessed my faults to the LORD, and You took away my guilt." He teaches us that we become holy by confessing our sins and being reconciled with God every day. The psalm serves as a mini treatise on reconciliation, covering the meaning of the spiritual leprosy of sin and showing how we are forgiven by a Sacramental encounter with God: “I turn to You, Lord, in times of trouble, and You fill me with the joy of salvation."

In today’s second reading, St. Paul exhorts us to become holy by doing “everything for the glory of God” and by showing sensitivity toward others who are different from us, rather than passing judgment on them. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus heals a leper, liberating him both from the disease of leprosy and from the unjust, inhuman social, ritual, and religious isolation and ostracism to which lepers were subjected.

Life message

1) We need to trust in the mercy of a forgiving God who assures us that our sins are forgiven and that we are clean. We are forgiven and made spiritually clean from the spiritual leprosy of sins when we repent of our sins, because God is a God of love Who waits patiently for us. The only condition required of us is that we ask for forgiveness with a repentant heart. We are sure to hear His words of absolution, "Very well -- your sins are forgiven, and you are clean," echoed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

2) We need to tear down the walls that separate us from others and build bridges of loving relationship. Jesus calls every one of us to demolish the walls that separate us from each other and to welcome the outcasts and the untouchables of society. These include homosexuals, the imprisoned, AIDS victims, alcoholics, drug addicts and marginalized groups - the divorced, the unmarried-single mothers, migrant workers, and the mentally ill. God's loving hand must reach out to them through us. Jesus wants us to touch their lives. Let us re-examine the barriers we have created and approach God with a heart that is ready to welcome the outcasts in our society.

The healing touch of Jesus repeated by St. Damien of Molokai: 85,000 people who gathered in a football stadium in Brussels, to celebrate the centenary of the death of Blessed Damien the, leper priest (beatified by Pope St, John Paul II, in 1995). Father Damien had lived for sixteen years in a remote corner of one of the remotest islands in the Pacific. He worked with lepers and, like Jesus in today's Gospel, word spread about him far and near. He was written about in newspapers from England to Australia. The day of our gathering was a national holiday in Belgium. The king and queen attended. And all for one man who spent sixteen years working at the back of beyond, but working in Jesus' name, and doing his work. It coincided - with the centenary of the birth of Adolf Hitler; and there were no celebrations. [Blessed Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI, October 11, 2009; his feast day is celebrated May 10th. (Encyclopedia Britannica on-line).] There is a beautiful song by Marilla Ness called "He Touched Me." It has a haunting melody, and the words are powerful and moving. "He touched me and oh, the joy that fills my soul; something happened: now I know: he touched me and made me whole." Today’s Gospel describes how the healing touch of Jesus made a leper whole

Fr. Gus. MS, Pastor