Homily — 6th Sunday OT B February 15, 2009

Homily — 6th Sunday OT B                February 15, 2009

In today’s First Reading we read from the Third Book of the Bible, the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, and I thought I’d give a little mini Bible study of this little read Book of Scripture to start off.

The Book of Leviticus, as the name, Levite-icus, implies, is written for the Levites.

The Levites were one of the twelve tribes of Israel.  They were descendants of Levi, one of the twelve sons of Jacob.

Moses and Aaron belonged to the tribe of Levi, as did John the Baptist’s parents.

The Levites were the priestly tribe of Israel;  God appointed all the men of the tribe of Levi to be the priests for the other 11 tribes of Israel.

And when God divided up the Promised Land prior to the Israelites entrance into it, God divided the land up into not 12 portions, but 11.

God gave one of these 11 portions to each of the other 11 tribes of Israel, but the Tribe of Levi received no portion of the promised land from God, for God said to them “I am your portion in this life.”

Instead of having their own little country like the other 11 tribes, the Levite families were to live in little cities scattered throughout the land of Israel, so that they could minister as priests to the tribes whose land they lived in.

And the Book of Leviticus is basically a handbook for these priests of the tribe of Levi:  27 Chapters of Rules God gave to Moses for the priests to follow.

To give you an idea of the contents of Leviticus, here are the Chapter headings for the first several chapters:

Chapter 1:  Animal sacrificial offerings

Chapter 2:  Cereal or grain sacrificial offerings

Next, theres:  Peace offerings to the Lord

Then:  Sin offerings of atonement — for Priests, for the whole community, for Princes, and for Lay people

Daily sacrifices (over and above the ones just mentioned)

The ritual for the Ordination of the High Priest

A  chapter on “How the priest should behave”  (Not naughty that’s for sure!)

Another chapter on “What parts of the animal sacrifices the priest can keep for himself and his family to eat.”

And of course one on “What foods are kosher and what foods are non-kosher.”

And so on.

Now, the longest chapter found in Leviticus is this Chapter 13 which we’ve read four verses from, in all there’s 57 verses in Chapter 13 all dealing with various types of Leprosy: things like pink and white blotches, boils, scabs, pustles, and other yucky skin diseases, and how the Levite priest needs to be able to identify one from the other.

Some Leprosy was to be judged by the priests as harmless, and the leper would be declared clean and readmitted to the community right away.

But the priests had to declare unclean and then quarantine people who had certain other forms of leprosy, some for only a week, others for a lifetime if the leprosy didn’t go away.

And when a leper was cleansed and healed of his unclean leprosy, before being readmitted to the community he or she needed to go to the priest and undergo a purification ritual and have the priest offer a purification sacrifice, the rules for which are written in Chapter 14, which is the second longest chapter of Leviticus.

The Fathers of the Church have commented that the many kinds and degrees of leprosy described in Leviticus are symbolic of the many kinds and degrees of sins that can afflict our souls.

Sin is a kind of spiritual leprosy, which eats away at our soul and makes us unclean.

Some kinds of sin, called venial sin, don’t merit our being banished from God’s people.  But more serious kinds of sin does destroy our relationship with God, as more serious kinds of leprosy banished the leper from the community of God’s people.

Which finally brings us to today’s Gospel.  Today, a man who St. Luke says was full of leprosy goes up to Jesus, and says “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.

And Jesus, the High Priest of the New and Everlasting Covenant, doesn’t despise this poor leper, but moved with pity, he reaches out and touches the man saying I do will it, be made clean.

And just as Jesus cleansed the man full of leprosy, so He wishes to cleanse us of our spiritual leprosy.

But Jesus can’t cleanse us if we are trying to hide that leprosy from him and from our selves.  Just as this leper admitted his need for healing, and then wasn’t afraid to show Jesus the ugliness of his leprosy, may we also face up to our sinfulness, and then not be afraid to show Jesus the ugliness of our souls disfigured by sin.

For if we come to Jesus in the Sacrament of Penance, Our Lord will not fail to reach out and touch us, and say to us I do will it, be made clean.

Comments are closed.