Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Sixth Sunday of the Year

Despite the fact we do not have an extensive advertising campaign and that ordinariate masses are not normally advertised by our local diocese (quite understandably) we frequently find a few folk have found their way to our mass at 3pm in Buckfast Abbey. Last Sunday was no exception. They are sometimes enquirers, sometimes catholics visiting the area, and sometimes someone just looking for a late mass. We are delighted to welcome them to our 'little mass'. Little of course only by virtue of our relatively small numbers, not little in the significance of celebrating the mass. Despite our small numbers we are pleased that eight people are currently being prepared for Reception; probably seven for the forthcoming triduum, and one other later. So I think despite being a small group in the Ordinariate we can be very pleased that the Lord is chosing to use us in this way for the glory of His name.
After our Reception last year - what joy!

Jesus leaves the fishing town of Capernaum, the home of Peter, Andrew, James and John to proclaim the Gospel to some of the most isolated families in the whole country. Despite the fact that the people of Capernaum want Him to stay, Jesus reaches out to these isolated family groups. And it is here that Jesus comes across a man suffering from leprosy.

Leprosy was a terrible disease not just in the way it caused disfigurement and suffering, but also in the way it separated sufferers from human community. The Law of Moses contained detailed prescriptions of how a leprosy sufferer is to be treated. It is clear once infected nothing could be done except to separate the individual from the rest of the community to prevent anyone else becoming infected by them. Of course it was possible that it could be misdiagnosed, but only an examination by a priest could result in the person being restored.

It seems likely that Leprosy was transmitted to the Hebrews during their time in Egypt. During the Exodus they brought it with them to the Promised Land.

At the time of Jesus, lepers were forced to live far from the rest of the population. It is interesting to note that in some of the writings of the Rabbis we have, that leprosy was considered to be as difficult to heal as raising a man from the dead. Indeed to have leprosy caused a separation from human community that no doubt caused mourning for the rest of one's family and community.

It was clearly a very significant event in Jesus' ministry, that He should have healed someone of their leprosy. In the very way our Lord heals the man, He shows His Lordship over the situation. He touches the man. Christ does not just say “Be healed.” He reaches out to the man who had been suffering not just the disease but a lack of human community. Despite the Law's pronouncement that the sufferer of leprosy was unclean (and therefore if anyone touched a leper they were unclean too) Jesus touches the man, and heals him through touching him. The man would be received back into his family and community as well as being delivered from the terrible disease.

Our Lord is clearly driven to proclaim to everyone the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. This proclamation is not just for the towns, but also for the isolated communities and families. But this drive of our Lord is not just about getting a message of words out to people; what is clear is that He wants as many people as possible to witness the Kingdom of God. He travels around and wherever He is present not only can one hear the Word of God, but one can witness the Kingdom of God.

One of the difficulties of us understanding this is because of the translation of our Lord's words into the word “Kingdom”. The phrase that Jesus actually uses is not so much to do with territory (as we usually understand kingdom to be) as to do with an active doing word: the active reign of God, the active Lordship of the King. Jesus is saying that God is actually sovereign now: God exists, and God is really God. Jesus is saying, that God is acting now – this is the hour when God is showing Himself in history as its Lord, as the living God, in a way that goes beyond anything seen before.

Despite Jesus' request that the man not speak about it to others, it is clear the man could not help himself telling everyone about this man Jesus. The man had been dramatically changed by the sovereign Lord. Where Christ is, there is the Kingdom of God, the active sovereign Lordship of God.

As we prepare ourselves for the keeping of Lent in ten day's time, let us examine our lives and ask ourselves, whether people could see in us evidence of the Lordship of God. If we find the evidence somewhat lacking, we could do worse than approach our Lord as the man with leprosy did. He approached on his knees and with complete confidence said, “If you will, you can make me clean.” May our keeping of Lent be characterised with such humility and faith.

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)