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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

I just can’t wait, can I? Lent hasn’t started yet, but I’m going to

preach on sin.


So what is sin? A simple answer would be: something that is bad.

But it has in some way to be deliberate.


Let’s go for a dramatic example: a mother comes home, only to find

that the house has brunt down, due to one of her son’s chemistry

experiments. It was an accident. Thankfully, the son is still alive. It

would have been a lot worse if it had been deliberate. But the mother

isn’t going to say to him: “Oh well, never mind. It was only an

accident. Besides, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live

in a tent.” No. There is at least some blame to be attributed to the

aspiring Nobel chemist, who should have been aware of the risks.


So, yes, sin, for it to be a sin, has to be deliberate. I was told of

someone, who, when he was a boy, went missing. His family spent

two hours looking for him all over the place. What had actually

happened was that whilst he was asleep, he fell out of bed, and then

rolled under the bed. He got his family very worried, but it wasn’t

deliberate and so it wasn’t a sin.


What about the leper in today’s Gospel? In the first reading it said

that a leper “must live apart; he must live outside the camp”. So you

could say that he broke that rule by going to Jesus. So should he have

stayed away and never been healed? Of course not. That would

make as much sense as saying that sick people are forbidden from

going to see the doctor or turning up at the hospital. You would have

a situation like the hospital described in Yes, Prime Minister! where

all the administration is done perfectly, as there aren’t any annoying

patients getting in the way. We have to understand the purpose of the

rule, which is for human health and to avoid spreading the disease.

This can be done by isolation, but also by the sick person being cured.


So, the leper is healed, but he is told by Christ Himself to keep it

quiet. But he doesn’t. We don’t know why. Was it that he couldn’t

control his tongue? Was he inconsiderate? Was it just that others saw

and overheard him when he went to the priest? There are always

various layers to what people do. But the effect is that Our Lord now

takes on the life of a leper: He “could no longer go openly into any

town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived” – the

crowds were just too great.


For many of us, the application here is to see sin itself as a form of

illness. When I was in the sixth form, we were taught to see the word

“disease” as being about “dis-ease”. Something is wrong.

Sometimes, when we are dealing with the “dis-ease” of sin, we can

want to hide away, for fear of punishment. How many criminals, after

committing crimes great and small, then hand themselves into the

police? Imagine the message on the police walkie-talkie: “The siege

is over, Sarge. He’s giving himself up for Lent.” But being a bit

more serious now, it’s wrong to see God, or the priest in the

confessional, as a policeman, there to hand out punishments. Part of

the disease, though, of sin, can be that we feel ill at ease in revealing

what we are responsible for. We might find it difficult to “man up”

and bring into the light of day the hidden darkness in our hearts.

There’s the story of a priest who is hearing confessions, and a man

enters the box. The priest says to him: “You’re drunk”. And the man

replies: “If I wasn’t I wouldn’t have the courage to be here.” (I’m not

suggesting that as a remedy, by the way.) Confession is about

receiving the healing of Christ, rather than staying away, either

because of wanting to obey the rule that lepers should stay on their

own, or out of worry that Jesus might ask: “And what did you do to

become a leper?”


I’ll wrap up there. Hopefully I’ve given you something to think about

as Lent approaches. Sin is something deliberate that displeases God,

but God doesn’t want us to suffer because of it. He wants us to come

to Him for healing.

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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