Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Second Sunday in Great Lent

Sermon / Homily on St. Luke 5: 12-16, 4: 40-41

Devotional Thoughts on The Sunday of the Lepers

By Rev. Dr. Joy Pyngolil, Florida

Gospel: St. Luke 5: 12-16, 4: 40-41

The second Sunday of the great lent, in our lectionary is labeled as “the Sunday of the lepers”. It must be based on the Gospel reading of that Sunday. The Gospel reading for that Sunday is taken from the Gospel according to St. Luke Chapter 5, verses 12-16 and also from Chapter 4: 40-41. For the vespers we read from the Gospel according to St. Mark Chapter 1. The morning Gospel lesson is from St. Mark Chapter 9: 14-29. In all these readings, we come across the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ manifested himself to be the great healer for the sick and sinful humanity which was afflicted by internal and external forces of evil spirit. Healing of the Leper is the main story of the day.

Why did church select to name this Sunday as Leper’s Sunday? Of all defilements mentioned in the Old Testament (61 of them), leprosy was only second to death in seriousness. People feared leprosy and hated lepers. (Today, leprosy is almost eradicated in the world according to WHO reports). A leper had no association with the regular community (Leviticus 13: 45-46). On a regular day, according to Jewish practices, a leper had to be at least 6 feet away from a normal person and on a windy day, the distance was 150 feet. A leper had to live alone or in a colony of lepers, not even within his own family. A leper was an outcast according to Indian varnasramadhrama. A leper was an outcast. Jesus Christ normalized the outcasts. In the church there is no discrimination between the sinful sick and the holy innocent. The church’s ministry extends mostly to the sick and suffering.

A leper was abandoned by family, ostracized by society and was condemned by religion. That was the system within which Jesus Christ lived and completed His earthly mission. Let us examine the incident further;

Jesus was accessible even to the outcasts. Gospel writers, three of them, recorded that a leper came very close to Jesus, knelt before him and said “Lord, if you chose, you can make me clean”. The leprosy of the Old Testament was no way equal to modern day leprosy but any scar or ailment on skin was considered as leprosy; priests excommunicated many, certifying them as lepers. It was a means of social cleaning. Leprosy certification like possession by evil spirit was a cause for excommunication. It was a forerunner of barbaric witch hunt of the European Christianity, label, condemn and kill, by religious forces. The abandonment by family, society and religion was too hard for the leper that he decided to brake all established social barriers and approached his savior who he felt can make him clean. He did not wait for approval from anyone but went directly to get his case heard. He made his plea heard and it was granted. When you are in intense pain take it to the Lord he will heal you. Then Jesus told him, I choose, be healed, and now to go to the priests and get de-certified. He asked them to be normalized. Sickness is not a reason for seclusion. Sickness does not equal to sinfulness.

Jesus Christ broke the traditional norms of established religious system that interfered with the normal life of individuals. Jesus Christ stretched his hand and touched him and made him clean. No Rabbi, no ordinary Pharisees, even a family member in his right mind will ever try to be in the presence of a leper. Now here comes a teacher who wants to bring about wholeness and salvation to the outcasts. Jesus gave the message, “Rabbi’s, you need to change your systemic mistakes. You have to think outside the box. You are building walls around people and alienate people in the name or sin and sickness. “ It is God’s will to restore humans to their original state of innocence. Societal norm may be perverted in many situations. Slavery exists even today in many communities. A Christian has to stand up for the rights of the poor and suffering created by the unjust societal norms. Fights happen in the name of religion; a Christian should always stand on his ground as peace makers. A Christian cannot fight to protect established system, but think outside the box. Would Jesus encourage religious fights today?

Jesus convinced the system. After touching him and assuring him cleanliness, Jesus sent him to the priest for verification. It was a willful act from our Savior. Jesus who addressed the system watchers as “blind guides” wanted them to see that the person whom they labeled and segregated was as clean as themselves with a simple touch or an understanding word. It was a message to the egotistical leaders who like popularity, that real honor or popularity stays not with the titles but with real understanding of human suffering. A caring touch and consoling word will give reassurance and self-confidence to a wavering soul.

As a church and as Christians we need to examine ourselves: Are we accessible to the poor and needy? Are we building up walls around us? Do we label people? Do we perpetuate systemic vices in any way in the name of tradition, culture and societal norms and exclude people from communion? Are we in a position to take a stand in the changing political, economic, and social systems in the world? Do we support a political system that widens the gap between the rich and the poor? Does the church support corporate mergers and mega stores in traditional societies, like India? Will there be a church which will be the voice of the voiceless Dalits? Let us find answers to the above questions in the light of Jesus’ bold actions that brought about religious and social changes. The unchanging Jesus Christ expects continuous changes from his followers. Let us rename the Leper’s Sunday to “Make me Clean Sunday”. Let His spirit guide us to witness Him in our community by becoming a dynamic church making perpetual changes.

See Also:

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for 2nd Sunday in Great Lent (Garbo Sunday)

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