Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Sunday Church at Home
during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Jesus and the “Lepers.”

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply: Amen

Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply: Blessed be God for ever

Leader: Today’s readings revolve around healing and belief. Jesus risks touching a diseased man in order to heal him, while Paul talks about challenges of conscience in a world of differing beliefs. The invitation here is to be open to the call to trust that God is at work amid our fear of difference and “otherness” and our fear of the darkness within ourselves.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Leviticus 13:1-2.44-46

Introduction to the reading: The third book of the Bible, Leviticus, is a collection of Jewish laws. Old Testament people believed that being clean or unclean (that is, kosher or non-kosher) was based on what was considered to be normal or abnormal. For example, because a snake slithered on the ground rather than walked, it was considered abnormal, and therefore unclean. By the same standards, people with disabilities or deformities were seen as unclean. We see a particular case addressed in this reading.

A reading from the Book of Leviticus
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
“When a person has on the skin of his body
a swelling or an eruption or a spot,
and it turns into a leprous disease on the skin of his body,
then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest
or to one of his sons the priests,
“He is a leprous man, he is unclean;
the priest must pronounce him unclean;
his disease is on his head.
“The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes
and let the hair of his head hang loose,
and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean.’
He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease;
he is unclean;
he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.
The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 32:1-2.5.11 (R. 7)
Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm.

R/. You are a hiding place for me;
you surround me with cries of deliverance.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is remitted.
Blessed the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,
in whose spirit is no guile.

To you I have acknowledged my sin;
my guilt I did not hide.
I said, “I will confess my transgression to the Lord.”
And you have forgiven the guilt of my sin.

Rejoice in the Lord; exult, you just!
Ring out your joy, all you upright of heart!

R/. You are a hiding place for me;
you surround me with cries of deliverance.

Second reading: 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Introduction to the reading: Today’s passage concludes a long section of First Corinthians in which Paul has been addressing disputes between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians about what foods are kosher. Paul now makes a general observation that while we may in principle be free to do this or that, we should avoid those things that disrupt harmony and peace.

A reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.
Brothers and sisters:
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,
just as I try to please all people in everything I do,
not seeking my own advantage, but that of many,
that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
The word of the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has arisen among us, and God has visited his people.
Alleluia!

Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
At that time:
A leper came to Jesus begging him,
and kneeling said to him,
“If you will, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity,
he stretched out his hand and touched him,
and said to him, “I will; be clean.”
And immediately the leprosy left him,
and he was made clean.
And he sternly charged him,
and sent him away at once,
and said to him,
“See that you say nothing to anyone;
but go, show yourself to the priest,
and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded,
for a proof to the people.”
But he went out and began to talk freely about it,
and to spread the news,
so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town,
but was out in the country;
and people came to him from every quarter.
The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

Homily

That poor leper had two sufferings to carry; not only was he suffering from illness, but he was also cut off from the community. Lepers had to live outside the village or town in a sort of leper colony because it was believed that the disease was contagious.
“(The leper) is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.” Lev 13:46.
In the first reading from the book of Leviticus, we heard the rules concerning lepers. When people were nearby lepers were to say, “Unclean, unclean.” The leper shouldn’t even have been in the village that day when Jesus came. Even when he approached Jesus the leper kept his distance. Jesus had to stretch out his hand to touch him when curing him. When Jesus healed the leper, Jesus not only healed his illness but restored him to his community and family once again.
We are still experiencing the painful isolation of people trying to stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. By February 2021 Covid-19 had infected about 100 million people worldwide (although 60 million recovered) causing about 2 million deaths.

Through the centuries, humankind has been beset by many illnesses, some of which have altered the course of history. For example, in the 14th century the Black Death or Bubonic plague swept through Asia and Europe, and by 1350, more than half the population of Europe had died. In 1918 there was an epidemic of influenza. Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time – in four successive waves. The death toll is estimated to have been somewhere between 20 million and 50 million people.

During an epidemic one of the first reactions is to quarantine the sick so as to protect the healthy. Separated from rest of society, those held in quarantine suffer doubly, first from their illness and its terrors, and then from the isolation. In the ancient world, victims of leprosy knew all too well, this double dose of suffering.
We are meant for community; we are not meant for isolation.
Whenever we celebrate the Eucharist we celebrate as a community. In community we are to make Christ real. Love is to be the characteristic of the Christian community. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “if I give away everything but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.” (1 Cor 13:3) Jesus said, “By this will all know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35). That is why Paul could say in our second reading today, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” In other words, take me for your model as I take Christ for my model.” (1 Cor 11:1) Everyone in the community is to reflect Christ.
We have been created for community and are called to live our faith in and with a community.
The effect of the coronavirus pandemic has been that we can’t gather in church for Mass as we used to. At the moment we are only allowed 50 people inside our church for a service. It means that we will observe Ash Wednesday in a new way.
This year, 2021, we will have Ash Wednesday at home
Mass will be livestreamed on Ash Wednesday in the morning of 17th February as we do every day.
Then I ask you to visit the church and collect the blessed Ashes and take them home. The Ashes will be in a little envelope attached to a leaflet with a prayer service.
Gather your family, and in the prayer service, the leader of the service can sprinkle the blessed Ashes on the top of the head of all present.
This is Ash Wednesday at Home and is the best way we can connect to each other in faith.
It is challenging to live our faith in and with a community during this pandemic. It is easy to feel isolated and disconnected from our parish during a time when so few people are permitted to gather in the church. This year, 2021, I encourage us as we begin the season of Lent on Wednesday that we can make a special effort to connect in new ways.
We have about 1400 subscribers on our parish website and each week about 500 read our parish newsletter which appears every Friday morning by email in your inbox. If you have not subscribed, please do so for Lent. If you know of a Catholic who feels isolated and disconnected, please make an effort during Lent to reach out. I would like to encourage us all to make Lent 2021 a time of connecting and reaching out to family and to all in our parish community.
It is important that we can connect in a meaningful way. Here is an example:
Mary sends a WhatsApp to me. It is a bible verse and reads: “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31 It comes with a pretty border and a background picture, and written in a fancy font. I delete it – because it has no connection to me. Many of these memes float on the web. It is basically anonymous. It is like spam.
Then Miriam sends me a WhatsApp. It says,” Dear Keith – I read “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” in 1 Cor 10:31 and it touched me. I was full of self pity in my isolation, but realized despite my isolation I can live for the glory of God. I read it. Miriam has shared of herself, and I have listened to Miriam, and in this way, I am connected to Miriam. I am humbled by her sharing and her trust. This is not reading spam. This is connecting to a real person. Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper. Just as Jesus connected to the leper, so Miriam has connected to me and I am all the better for it.

When reading Scripture, I prefer just to look at the Readings of the day from the missal. Each day has a focus. It can be meaningful to read random verses of Scripture, but I prefer the Readings of the day.
If I look at the weekday readings of the day for two years, I will read all significant passages from the Bible.
If I look at the Sunday readings over a period of 3 years, I will read all the significant passages from the Bible.
The liturgical year and the spiritual life coincide. This is a certainty.
The goal of spiritual life is to let oneself be increasingly open to the God of all creation. The liturgy is the most important way of helping in this.
We are created so that we become ourselves completely when (and only when) we let ourselves be open to God explicitly or implicitly.
We love and are loved insofar as this takes place, whether we know it or not.
Jesus lived among us as a human being in time and space. Liturgy gradually exposes us to that. When we live the seasons of Advent and Christmas and Lent and Easter and Ordinary Time, we live the life of Jesus and encounter his presence among us.
These 4 points describe the “spiritual life,” which allows us to encounter God and discover our meaning and purpose in life.
Jesus healed the leper and restored him to community. We have been created for community and are called to live our faith in, and with, a community.
From today’s Gospel reading:
“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper.”
So we ask ourselves:
How does my daily life reflect my identity as a Christian?
What can I do to connect in a meaningful way to people who feel isolated and lonely.

Prayer of the Faithful

Leader: In a spirit of mercy and compassion we bring before God the needs of our suffering world.

Reader:
We pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis: (pause) that he may continue to lead us in building a Church of openness and compassion.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for the leaders of South Africa: (pause) that their policies may be for the common good, remembering especially the needs of those who are poorest and most vulnerable.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for the grace to imitate Christ: (pause) that God will help us to love others, confront lies and injustice, and surrender ourselves in service to God and neighbor as did Jesus.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who are ill: (pause) that God will touch the sick and return them to wholeness, free the human family from the coronavirus, and speed the distribution of the vaccines.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for all married couples: (pause) that God will continue to deepen their love and help their relationship give witness to God’s loving presence in the world.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for Dalia Tiziana Rota and Fr Jan Dingelstad.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for Justin Lwinga, Colette Cauldwell, Dave Claven and Fr Ronnie Cairns who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine on them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.

Leader: Let us pray for strength during the pandemic.
God of Love, we turn to you with prayerful hearts and with confidence in your loving presence among us. We stand before you as a people of hope, trusting in your care and protection. May we be comforted by your love in these anxious times.
Generous and Merciful God, fill us with compassion and concern for others, young and old; that we may look after each other in these challenging times, especially those among us who are vulnerable. Heal us of our fear.
Healing God, bring healing to those who are sick with the Coronavirus and be with their families and neighbours. We pray especially who those who are isolated, that they may know your love. Stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
God of Strength, accompany all those who serve us with such love and generosity in the medical profession and in all our healthcare facilities. We give thanks for their continued work in the service of people. We ask you to bless them, strengthen them and guide them with your abundant goodness.
God of Wisdom, we ask you to guide the leaders in healthcare and governance; that the rollout of the vaccines may be swift and reach all our people.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Leader: We come before you, O God,
confident in Christ’s victory over sickness and death.
Heal us again from sin, which divides us, and from prejudice, which isolates us.
Bring us to wholeness of life
through the pardon you grant your people.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Blessing

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All: Amen.