February 9, 2024

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading for Mass this weekend comes from the Book of Leviticus. In sequence, Leviticus is the fourth book in modern translations of the Bible. As such, it is part of the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch includes the five books of the Bible attributed to Moses. These five books are also known as the Torah.

The Pentateuch forms the fundamental law and philosophy of Judaism, both in current understandings and in ancient practices as well.

In this reading, God speaks to Moses and Aaron, his brother. The topic is leprosy. Today it is not known whether these references to leprosy in the Scripture referred to Hansen’s disease or to some other illness. Regardless of the exact scientific nature of what the ancients called leprosy, however, the problem was chronic and severe.

An entire social system developed around the disease. The victims were outcasts. They were totally shunned. Often, they literally had to forage for or steal food and search for any shelter they could find.

Ancient Jews would never blame God for intending such a serious malady. God was regarded as good, loving and merciful. The ancient Hebrews saw human sin as ultimately the cause of all earthly misery.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, the source for this weekend’s second reading, includes the great Apostle’s counsel that Christians should do everything with the purpose of glorifying God.

He admonished the Christians of Corinth never to offend either Jew or Gentile. Paul urges that the Christians follow his example because Paul says that he imitates Christ.

The reading therefore sets Christ as the supreme example and insists that believers ignore this example at their own risk.

For its last reading, the Church gives us a passage from the Gospel of St. Mark. In this reading, a leper approaches Jesus, pleading for a cure. Jesus cured the man, the Lord being “moved with pity” (Mk 1:41).

This cure came when Jesus touched the man. (As an aside, but nevertheless instructive, touching is very important in the liturgy. Touch creates contact and enables transference. In ordinations, the ordaining bishop lays his hands upon the head of candidates to be ordained a bishop, priest or deacon. At weddings, the bride and bridegroom hold each other’s hands.)

Jesus transmitted the healing power of God to the man through this touch. Then, Jesus spoke the miraculous words of healing.

The Lord ordered the man to go to the priests. The man had been completely exiled from the community because of his illness. If the priests saw that he was free of disease, he would be re-admitted to society. He could live again.

The reading closes by noting that great crowds pursued Jesus.


Vivid in this reading from Mark is the image of desperation on the part of the leper. It is no wonder. While modern scientists debate exactly what the Bible means by leprosy, this much is clear: it was an awful disease. Fearing contagion, people avoided to the extreme anyone suffering from this disease. Lepers lived miserable, hopeless lives.

In the minds of the ancient Hebrews, somehow leprosy resulted from sin.

Mark recalls that Jesus was moved by pity. He cured the man. He accepted the man. He loved the man. He touched the man.

An interesting sidebar in these miracle narratives from Mark’s Gospel is that people so yearn for Jesus. Elsewhere in Mark, a paralytic so wanted to find Jesus that others let him through the very roof of the house where Jesus was. When Jesus withdrew into the desert to pray, the Apostles spontaneously followed, unwilling to be without the Lord. This reading says people came to Jesus from everywhere.

These reports all reveal something very basic and true: Jesus alone is the source of life and peace. †

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