By Love's Hand

By Love's Hand

Fierce  Female Network And The We’73 Project

Vol 5 Apr 2024

March Homily by Deacon Richard Benkovic

Leprosy was one of the most feared diseases in the time of Jesus. The disease would start as a small spot on the skin and soon spread. It rotted the victim’s fingers, nose, lips and gave off a disgusting smell. We hear it explained in our First Reading, how lepers were excluded from society and left to die a slow and painful death. They were prohibited by law from coming within 100 yards of healthy people. The disease was looked upon as a sign of God’s punishment. Theologians and spiritual writers have always seen in this Old Testament conception of leprosy a symbol of sin. Just as leprosy starts small but spreads and grows, so one sin starts to grow and cut us off with our relationship with God. So, when Jesus reaches out and touches this leper and heals him, it is much more than just another miracle. It is a revelation of Jesus’ mission here on Earth. Jesus came to the leper, and he still comes to us–not to condemn us, but to save us. And this is exactly what every human heart needs to know: that we are loved even though we are sinners. And if God forgives us, should we not treat all people like God treats us?

          When I was in my late twenties, one of my friends who worked in a prison asked me if I wanted to join a basketball team that he was getting together, to play a game in the prison against the inmates. I agreed to play. I remember signing a release form and a guard telling us what to do if there were any problems in the prison. As we walked through the prison and the doors closed behind me, I thought What am I getting myself into? I remember the basketball game was close and very competitive.When the game came to an end, we shook hands with all the players, and you could see in their eyes that they saw themselves as basketball players instead of inmates who have done something wrong in society.

          Following Christ’s example of forgiving is hard for us at times. Understanding why it’s so hard for us is a big step towards making it a lot easier. There are at least two reasons. The first comes from original sin. We live in a fallen world and suffer from a fallen human nature, so we have a built-in tendency to be self-centered instead of self-forgetful. The second is the culture in which we live. Our culture tends to measure the value of people more by what they have or what they can do than by who they really are as children of God. Saint John Paul II used to describe it as the “culture of death.” Is there any hope for us to learn to accept everyone as children of God? Of course! Jesus himself is our hope. He dwells in every Christian heart, redeeming our fallen nature and strengthening us to do his bidding to treat others as Christ treated us, even when we fall from grace.

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