Weekly Sermons 

 15/02/2015

 1st Sunday in Lent

 6th Ordinary Sunday: Gospel Mark: 1:40-45: A Sermon: D.Sotiriadis.

 

Some people would say, that the world we live in, for all its advancements in technology, science, and medicine, is no better off compared to past ages, in terms of how less fortunate people, are being treated.

 Whether we like it or not, we live in a world that is divided between those who have, and those who have not. For example, if you are poor, or if you live in a poor area, you can be discriminated against, in terms of business opportunities.


However, you don’t have to be poor to be discriminated against. People in this life, because of their race, colour or creed, can suffer injustices. People through no fault of their own, can become social outcasts.

Little gestures, can give us greater insight into a person’s character, than the big gestures. The big things show us a person’s power. The little ones show us a person’s humanity.


We have a very good example of this, in today’s Gospel. It concerns Jesus’ gesture of touching the leper before he cured him. Though it was a small thing in itself, in the context it was a very big thing.


It is small gestures like that, which affirm the dignity and value of people. Today leprosy is not feared as much as it once was. If those who are infected are treated in time, they can be completely cured, and nobody will know that they ever had the disease.


In Jesus’ time, leprosy was one of the most feared diseases. It was to the people of that time, what the Ebola virus in Africa, is to us today. In the time of Jesus, Lepers were forbidden to live in the local community, for a number of reasons.


Firstly this was to protect the community, against infection. Secondly, lepers were also excluded from religious services, because they were considered ritually unclean, as was anybody who came in contact with them.

Thus they were social and religious outcasts. They were rejected and despised by people, and as a result, they believed themselves rejected and

despised by God too. If pronounced cured, they had to undergo a purification rite, before being re—admitted to the community. Jesus knew all of this.


Nevertheless, he cut through the religious and social taboos. He allowed the leper to approach him. Then he did the unthinkable. He reached out and touched him before he cured him.


Why did Jesus do what the Religious Law forbade? That touch shows Jesus’ great compassion for the outcast, the sinner, and the sufferer. He touched the leper, so that he might show that all things are clean, to the one who is clean him-self.

He also did it, to show that external un-cleanliness, does not defile the clean of heart. He touched the Leper to teach us to despise no one, or regard them as pitiable because of some bodily affliction.


Jesus touched the infirmities of people, not so that those infirmities might adhere to him, but that he might drive them from those who were afflicted. That simple gesture or touch, would have meant the world to the leper.


The leper’s worst suffering was not the leprosy itself, but the pain of being rejected by everyone. In touching him Jesus gave him a sign of welcome, and repaired his sense of being dirty and unworthy.


Jesus accepted the leper just as he was. Acceptance is the answer to rejection. For when people accept us, they give us a feeling that we are worthwhile. Jesus had this great understanding of, and feeling for, people who were suffering.

Jesus understood the leprosy of the leper, the darkness of the blind, the fierce misery of those who live for pleasure, the strange poverty of the rich, and the thirst that can lead people to drink from muddy waters.

Jesus stretches our capacity for compassion. Each of us has a great capacity for compassion. The pity is that it often goes unused. All of us have it in our power, to reach out to those who are suffering pain and rejection.

Each of us longs to be accepted for what we are. It is the love and acceptance of others, that makes us the unique persons we are.


When we are accepted for who we are, then we become encouraged to be all who we can be, and achieve our full potential. This is how Christ accepted the leper, and how he accepts us.


And how in our turn, we may learn to accept others, and to reach out to those who are suffering the pain and rejection. When I was training to be a Priest, I had a choice of two years Pastoral Training in either, prison chaplaincy, aged care chaplaincy or palliative care chaplaincy.


Palliative care chaplaincy involves journeying with people, who are dying in particular from cancer in the main part. Over a period of 2 years twice a week, I sat with people from the age of 5 to the age of 95, as they journeyed towards the next life.


Some in Palliative Care, were also dying from aides. People understandably fear being near people, who are dying in particular those who are dying from infectious diseases.


Over the last 23 years I have sat with different people in different hospitals in different parishes. In 90% of the cases unless a person was an alcoholic or promiscuous, they were ordinary people, who had contracted a serious illness, due to no fault of their own.


The role of a hospital Chaplain, involves being fully present to an ill person, and their needs, without placing upon them, any expectations, or demands. When people have their lives turned upside down, by illness or disease, they do find that people treat and approach them differently.


People, because of there own fear of catching the disease, or the fear of watching others suffering, can struggle to reach out to those who are ill. As Christians, God calls us to reach out to those, who society disowns. 


So, as we come to the Altar of the Lord today, may we do so giving thanks to God, for where we are blessed! As we talk to each other after our service, may we encourage each other, to not forget those, who society rejects!


And as we go out to live our lives this week, may we make the most of our opportunities to help others, for God is ever waiting to work through us, so as other’s may experience compassion, peace of mind, and well earned rest. 

 

 

 

 


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