Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral - Sunday 15 February 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am seldom in the city at night.  On some occasions I have seen young people who obviously have nowhere to go.  I know from years back, overseas, I have seen people sleeping in boxes, under railway bridges, in parks.  In more recent years the glazed eyes and other symptoms of drug taking are like a spectre in our society.

Sickness, disease, pain, suffering; none of us passes through life untouched by these evils, which are part of the human condition.  Those of you who are older will remember the polio epidemic of the 1940s and 1950s, the effects of AIDS over the last twenty years and the fear of some terrible virus, anthrax, smallpox and many other deadly diseases.

The Gospel today speaks of leprosy – a terrible debilitating disease, repulsive to look at, horrible to describe, as the human body is painfully and inevitably destroyed.  And yet there is a condition present in our society and our lives, that of sin, which is far more painful and gruesome than any illness. 

Leprosy deforms and cripples.  How much more, sin.  Leprosy, if allowed to go unchecked, is a virtual death sentence.  How much more does human sin destroy, separate, isolate, alienate, deform, cripple and eventually bring death to the heart, mind and spirit of someone who allows it to go unrecognised, unchecked and unrepented. 

Those who were present with Jesus marvelled at the cures of sickness as those who were shunned as the living dead were brought back to life.  The physical healings Jesus performed are simply external illustrations of the most wonderful thing of all, ‘go and sin no more’, the readiness that Jesus has to forgive us.  That is why he instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation; far more life-giving than any psychiatrist, far more reassuring than any therapist, because it is an operation of grace.

Often we can hesitate in approaching the Sacrament because of our shame or the seeming repetition of our category of weakness and failure.  Yet this is not the real point at issue. 

When we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation it is Jesus who heals.  It is not the repetition.  It is not the seeming frustration at our failure to grow.  It is Jesus who catches us up into the economy of grace.  That means that God, not only gives us a lasting peace, but he lifts us up to see things his way, to see that we too can remake our lives and be instruments of remaking the world through the healing and forgiveness of a sinner who believes. 

The entire human community can be healed.  The distorted attitudes and values, the false priorities, the fears that hold people back from doing good.  Our words as also the words of Jesus today, could be, “Lord, if you will to do so, you can cure me”, and he invites us to be emboldened to do the same.  Once our sin is admitted and our sins named and surrendered to the power of God we will hear the words, “I do will it.  Be cured.  Be forgiven and go and sin no more.” 

The story of leprosy today is a reminder that there is hope, there is capacity to grow.  The great prophet has visited his people, giving us Reconciliation and the Eucharist to cleanse and renew us and lead us to our eternal reward.  May it be so in the life of each of us today and in the Sacrament we approach in the near future.

+ Denis J. Hart,


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