Mass celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne

Sunday 11 February, 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Readings challenge us today with the contrast between living for the glory of God and the stark reality of people whom we tend to shun.

Leprosy has been greatly curtailed in today’s world, although as many as two million people may still suffer and live apart in colonies. Many of us tend to shun people who are sick. We cannot quite cope with weakness or failure and we think, particularly while we are young, that we are invincible, driving around our streets without respect for life and limb and the terrible tragedies that sometimes ensue. We avoid the neurotic or odd member of our family, the person who talks too much, the obsessive person who wrings their hands, people who we feel are different from us.

The leper comes to Jesus: “Lord, if you will you can make me clean”; the apostles are all astonished by the healing granted. The weakness that all of us has to face is the fact that our human nature is flawed. The greatest evil in the world is our sin. When we turn to ourself and away from God and others there can be habits of sin, repeated failures despite our efforts. Jesus the great healer invites us to come and receive the Lord’s healing and to be his instruments in the world of today. The leper when cured went praising God because he had to tell everyone of God’s power in his life.

Jesus invites us to experience him and to know that same power. That man was so powerfully touched by Jesus that he talked about it everywhere. And we are touched by Jesus who forgives us. We know that God is near.

Dear friends, let us turn away from the all too common reaction, to see the attitude of Jesus. He touched the leper from whom people had shrunk back. He cured him and restored him to full participation in the prayer and the social and political life of the community.

The big challenge for us today is in fact to be touched by Jesus. The great father of the Church Origen says, “The Lord had compassion on this man who believed in him, who trusted his power. To him Jesus said: You have believed; you are healed. You hoped; you are made clean. Do not forget what you were, but what you are now made into. Ceaselessly give thanks and tell the goodness of the Lord to others.”

To come to the Lord, the man realised and admitted his leprosy. It was only when he came to the Lord, trusted him and was touched that he was able to tell others of the wonders of God.

We might ask ourselves whether this is our problem. We believe we are still in baptismal innocence, and yet in reality we are frail, we fail, we try again, we fail again, we struggle. It is in the admission of our weakness and our need of Jesus’ healing, allowing him to touch us in our inmost hearts that we will find the challenge and the power to tell others about him.

The cure of the leper is a startling reminder of how near God is, and what difference his presence can make, but we have to honestly recognise our weakness, come to Jesus wholeheartedly and unreservedly, unafraid of what he might do, and then we will be able to tell of his wonders.

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.

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