Sunday Sermon for February 12, 2012, The sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Lev 13: 1-2,44-46; 1Cor 10: 31-11:1; Mk 1:40-45

In the second reading today St. Paul tells us to be imitators of him as he is of Christ. What does this mean? I think St. Paul answered that question earlier in the reading when he told us to do everything for the glory of God. He even goes so far as to say that eating and drinking should be for the glory God. So when he says everything he means everything.

At the same time, he tells us that in every way he tries to please others, not seeking his own benefit, but that of the many, so that they will be saved. In the Gospel reading we hear about our Lord curing the man of leprosy which was obviously for the good of the man himself, but also of the crowd who witnessed the miracle and for the many people the man told later on.

Jesus had told him to keep things quiet, but he went and told everyone. Could he really be expected to remain quiet? First of all he was overjoyed at being healed. Secondly, his family and friends certainly knew that he had leprosy, so it would be rather difficult to keep it hidden when people he knew asked him about his healing. However, it seems that he did not try very hard to remain silent.

Even this gave glory to God because more people heard about our Lord. In fact, we are told, so many heard about him from this man that it was impossible for Him to go into towns openly. This makes us question how many people we have told about our Lord. This man told so many that Jesus had to stay in deserted places if He wanted some time alone. Perhaps we are on the other end of the spectrum: Jesus is alone in the Blessed Sacrament because we have not told anyone about Him and we do not visit Him ourselves.

It is easy to see how the leper was able to glorify God through his healing. But what about all the people who were not healed? We hear about these people in the first reading: how they had to tear their garments, muffle their beards, keep their heads bare, and cry out “unclean, unclean.” They also had to dwell apart from everyone else, making their abode outside the camp.

This sounds like a horrible way to have to live. Yet it is the way that many people throughout history became Saints. This gave the lepers opportunities to serve one another, to pray, to accept their suffering and to prepare for death. The social aspect of being cut off from interaction with others was probably worse for the afflicted persons than the disease itself.

Like most people they would probably have had to go through the denials, the anger, the bitterness and all of the other conditions we would all face in such circumstances. However, if they could come to accept that this was God’s will for them, then they could be at peace and could even prosper spiritually in this state. It is possible for them even to see it as a blessing.

Why would God allow something like this to happen to someone? For the man in the Gospel, it was so that God could be glorified through his healing. For others it is to remove them from a life that would have resulted in their eternal condemnation. Still others are able to unite themselves with the sufferings of our Lord, thus bringing many people to Christ through their prayers while growing in holiness themselves.

Each of us has many opportunities every day to serve God and neighbor. Most of these we squander because we are more focused on ourselves than we are on God. For many in our society the interest is in their own glorification, not in the glory of God. They are also more interested in what benefits them than they are in seeking the benefit of others.

If we see these kinds of qualities in ourselves, then we have an opportunity to begin making changes. We can always be assured that God will provide for us whatever is truly the best. It may be something humiliating, it may be something painful, it may be something pleasant. Regardless, we have to begin seeing everything as a gift from God, accept it with peaceful resignation and give God glory in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

This is very difficult at first, but it becomes easier as we pray and as we see the good that God brings from these trials. When we know that God will work everything for our good, we can glorify Him in everything, not only in the extraordinary circumstances, but even the day to day things we can begin to do for His glory.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit