Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: WORLD DAY OF THE SICK
In other years: Our Lady of LourdesReadings of the day: RB 9 The Number of Psalms at the Night OfficeMass: Lv 13:1-2, 44-46; Resp. Psalm 32; 1 Co 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45
Mother Teresa ministering to the sickDo not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets;I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.(Mt 5:17).
Jesus spoke the words above shortly after teaching the Beatitudes to the gathered crowds: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.’ We see his words manifest in our readings from Leviticus and the Gospel of Mark. First, we are presented with the man with a leprous disease on the skin of his body. The law is followed: the man must be brought to Aaron or to one of the priests and be declared unclean. Unclean, the man shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled, cover his upper lip while crying out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ As long as the disease is present, the man is outcast, made to live alone in a dwelling outside the camp.
Second, we are presented with a leper who comes to Jesus—the leper kneels down and begs Jesus: ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’ In the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar: ‘Jesus permits the leper to approach and then does the unthinkable for a Jew: he touches him.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretches out his hand and touches the man: ‘I will do it. Be made clean.’ What about the law? Jesus follows it. The disease-free man is told to say nothing to anyone; to show himself to the priest, and offer for his cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.
There is progression in these accounts. Jesus’ post-Beatitude line bears repeating: ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.’ Enter the law of LOVE. Jesus fulfills the law with LOVE—LOVE that touches, heals, comforts—accepting each one of us in whatever condition the Lord find us. LOVE does not cast out; LOVE does the unthinkable. LOVE embraces. LOVE is not about moral rectitude that forsakes those we find undesirable. Jesus tells us that our righteousness should exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Otherwise, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven (see Mt 5:20). Jesus calls the sick—the leprous, the sinner—all in need of affection and acceptance no matter their physical or emotional state. LOVE touches the untouchable, embraces those made to dwell apart; even those with a swelling or an eruption or a spot on the skin of their body. LOVE calls us to extend mercy and love to the sick in mind and body. The touch of LOVE makes us clean.May the sick always be shown love in their fragility andin their inviolable dignity.(Pope Francis, Twitter, Feb. 22, 2018)