Sunday Sermon for February 15, 2015, 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 instructs us that we are to do everything for the glory of God, even things as mundane as eating and drinking. There are very few people that I have ever met who think this way. I have met many who want to glorify themselves; I have also met many people who would readily say that they want to glorify God. However, I have met very few who think about glorifying God in everything that they do.
To do this would require changing the way we think and having the presence of mind to be aware, before we do anything, not only of what we are going to do, but why we are going to do it. With most of the things in our lives we do not give much thought at all to why we are doing something. We have our morning routine, we go about our business, we take our meals, we do our chores, we settle in for the evening. Other than some of the business activities, we either do not think about our reason for doing something or we are doing them out of habit or out of a selfish motive. By selfish motive I do not even mean something negative; rather, we eat to satisfy our desires, we clean the house so we can feel more comfortable, etc.
When we pray one would think that this would be done for the glory of God. Sometimes it is, but often times it is not. Most people pray because they seek the peace that can come from prayer. Many people seek consolation, others even look for what they can obtain from God in the way of spiritual gifts. Sometimes people go to Mass for the social aspect, i.e., to see others and to be seen by them. Prayer is supposed to be about loving God. This is the first place that we have to adjust before anything else in our lives can truly be for the glory of God.
Oftentimes we can begin something with the greatest of intentions, but it takes only a matter of minutes before our focus changes. For instance, we might go to prayer with the intention of just trying to love God. If the prayer is dry, we quickly get distracted or frustrated and pretty soon the focus is on our own self. We realize that if it is that difficult even to keep our perspective proper when we are trying to pray, it is no wonder that we have so much trouble with remembering to do anything else for God.
St. Paul says that the way he does this is to try to please everyone. In other words, charity. This makes sense since charity requires that we focus on the other person. He says that in doing this he is imitating Jesus; then he tells us that we are to imitate what he is doing. This is really nothing more that the twofold command to love God and love neighbor that our Lord gave us.
Love, as we know, comes with a cost. The cost is not the time, the effort, or the money we may have spent to serve someone. The cost is the self. This is what makes it so difficult. We look at what St. Paul had to endure for the sake of those to whom he preached. Look at the Gospel today and see how much it cost Jesus to heal the leper. Monetarily it cost nothing; personally, it meant that the Lord had to remain in desert places and could no longer enter a town or a village openly.
What I have always marveled at in this particular healing is that there was a reverse of situations between the two men involved. As we see in the first reading, a leper has to live apart from the rest of the community. This man was healed by our Lord and was now able to take part in the ordinary things of life. He could be reunited with his family, he could live in his own home again, he could walk the streets of the city, he could interact with friends and neighbors. He went from being isolated because of his condition to being integrated into the life and activities of his family and his village.
Jesus, on the other hand, because of this healing, had to remain apart from the community, the way the leper used to be. He could not enter a town openly, not because He had a disease, but because He would be mauled by those seeking healing. Jesus did not want rock star status, but His charity to those in need cost Him His quiet, hidden life. Are we willing to imitate Jesus and glorify God regardless of the personal cost?
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 www.thewandererpress.com.