READINGS: Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46/ 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1/ Mark 1:40-45
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In both the first and gospel readings, leprosy is mentioned. Leprosy, like the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (CoViD-19), is an infectious disease. Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the gospel reading, demonstrates an absolute healing power over leprosy: the leper experienced instant and total healing with the touch and word of Jesus (Mark 1:41-42).
Beloved, some clues from elsewhere in the gospels give us the understanding that Jesus’ absolute power over the infectious disease of leprosy has a deeper meaning for us. For instance, in John Chapter 6, when Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed the crowd of thousands, He wanted them to understand that He is the bread of life. Then, in healing the man born blind, Jesus wanted the people to understand that He is the light of the world (John 9:5). Similarly, in demonstrating His absolute power over leprosy, Jesus teaches us that He has absolute power over the spiritual infectious disease of sin: He is the unique Lamb of God who died on the cross to take away the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29).
SIN AS AN INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Why sin is an infectious disease? Infectious diseases like leprosy and CoViD-19 impact negatively on the health of an individual and they spread from a person to another. Similarly, sin has an adverse effect on our spiritual health and it spreads from a person to another.
Indeed, sin as a spiritual infectious disease is more deadly than leprosy, CoViD-19 or any other physical infectious disease. This is because, firstly, its deadly effect on the individual could be eternal. As leprosy, for instance, disfigures a person physically, so sin disfigures us in spirit. We become no longer the “image and likeness” of the all-holy God – we become something else. Again, as physical leprosy makes its victims lose their fingers, toes, etc., so sin makes us lose wholeness of our souls.
Though souls cannot be quantified, for the sake of a vivid description of the conditions of our souls negatively affected by sins, one could say that some have become ½, ¼, 1/10, etc. of the original souls God created for us. So, whereas leprosy disfigures one’s body, and CoViD-19 does more damage to internal human organs, sin does the most damage as it kills our spiritual internal “organ”, the soul. In short, sin can kill our soul eternally.
Secondly, while for instance, the impact of CoViD-19 on humanity includes the loss of jobs, businesses, good health, physical lives, etc., the adverse effect of sin is greater: the loss of God’s grace, His fellowship and eventually, heaven, to mention a few. Regarding the loss of heaven, St. Paul cautions us: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).
Thirdly, whereas leprosy and CoViD-19 can infect a large number of people who come into contact with each other, the infection capacity of sin is not only transgenerational, it is from Adam and Eve until Christ will come again. Thus, St. Paul affirms: “sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12) and again, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Whereas, with time the CoViD-19 pandemic will come to an end, the sin pandemic will continue until Christ comes again.
JESUS, THE UNIQUE DIVINE PHYSICIAN
Yes, sin is the deadliest infectious disease. Fortunately, though, there is great news for us: Jesus can heal us of the spiritual infections of sin! According to today’s gospel reading, to be healed, the leper expressed faith in Jesus: “if You are willing, You can make me clean” (Mark 1:41). So, our first step towards receiving the Lord’s healing or forgiveness of our sins is to have faith in Him.
OBSERVING THE DIRECTIVES
After healing the leper, Jesus told him: “go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded” (Mark 1:44). Thus, Jesus asked the healed leper to observe the directives of the Law of Moses (cf. Lev. 13:1-2, 44-46; the first reading). Similarly, we must observe the certain spiritual directives if we wish to prevent the infections of sins. Let us illustrate these spiritual directives with some of the CoViD-19 directives.
Firstly, a person infected by the coronavirus is to isolate him/herself. So, beloved, if we have been infected by the spiritual virus of sin, let us isolate ourselves. That is, let us create a spiritual space for ourselves in a quiet place (the church or home) to reflect on how our sins offend God and negatively impact on ourselves and others. Then, as some would do against an infection of the coronavirus, let us steam ourselves with the grace of God, which will convict us to confess our sins.
Secondly, just as we would report to health professionals, if we suspect that we have been infected by the coronavirus, so Jesus instructs us to see the priest. Beloved, let us see the priest to confess the sin we have committed (cf. James 5:14-16). The complete restoration of the skin health of Naaman, the leprous Syrian army officer, gives a vivid picture of the spiritual restoration we enjoy when our sins are forgiven upon confession. After washing seven times in the River Jordan, his skin became “like that of a little child” (2 Kings 5:14-17). Similarly, when the Lord forgives our sins, our souls are restored to the innocence of a baptized child.
Thirdly, to prevent ourselves from the coronavirus infection, we are advised to wear face masks and sometimes together with shields. Similarly, we could see prayer as the face mask and fasting as a shield. So, let us cultivate the habits of prayer and fasting to prevent the infection of sin.
Fourthly, as social distancing is required to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, so let us distance ourselves from people who either lead us into temptation or in whose company we fall into sin.
Fifthly, as certain food nutrients and vitamins boost our immune systems against CoViD-19, so may our nourishment by the Word of God, the sacraments and good deeds, especially, charitable works, boost the immunity of our spirits against the infection of sin.
Finally, our souls are infected by the virus of sin when our minds and hearts entertain and succumb to temptations. Therefore, our minds and hearts are like the hands which carry the coronavirus into our nostrils and mouths. So, with the Living Water (Holy Spirit) and the precious blood of Jesus as soap, may our minds and hearts be always sanitized. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis