Who we are

Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.

Ministry Mission

Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.

Peace, Justice, Creation

We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.

Spirituality

We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.

LITURGY NOTES FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME, 2018

6TH SUNDAY

 

Sixth Sunday of the Year

February 11th, 2018

Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.

We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land
on which we stand.
We pay our respects to them and for their care of the land.

May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.

or

I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,

the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,

and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.

or

We acknowledge the traditional occupiers of the land where we are now gathered, ………..  and recognise that it continues to be sacred to them.

We hail them: as guardians of the earth and of all things that grow and breed in the soil; as trustees of the waters – [the seas, the streams and rivers, the ponds and the lakes] - and the rich variety of life in those waters.

We thank them for passing this heritage to every people since the Dreamtime.

We acknowledge the wrongs done to them by newcomers to this land and we seek to be partners with them in righting these wrongs and in living together in peace and harmony.

‘My vengeance is that I forgive you.’

A Thanksgiving for Australia

God of the Dreaming

A prayer by the Revd Lenore Parker, an Indigenous Anglican priest

God of holy dreaming, Great Creator Spirit,

From the dawn of creation you have given your children

the good things of Mother Earth.

You spoke and the gum tree grew.

In vast deserts and dense forest,

and in cities at the water’s edge,

creation sings your praise.

Your presence endures

as the rock at the heart of our Land.

When Jesus hung on the tree

you heard the cries of your people

and became one with your wounded ones:

the convicts, the hunted, and the dispossessed.

The sunrise of your Son coloured the earth anew.

and bathed it in glorious hope.

In Jesus we have been reconciled to you,

To each other and to your whole creation.

Lead us on, Great Sprit,

as we gather from the four corners of the earth,

Enable us to walk together in trust,

from the hurt and shame of the past

Into the full day which has dawned in Jesus Christ. Amen.

15ordinarioB6   the
            cover of America, the Catholic magazine06_to_b

   

 

 

Readings

Reading I Leviticus 13:12, 4446

Responsorial Psalm Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11

Reading II 1Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Gospel Mark 1:40-45

Penitential Rite

  • Jesus, you are the peace within us and between us.  Jesus, have mercy.
  • Jesus, you are the face of God's compassion in our midst.  Christ, have mercy.
  • Jesus, you came to gather all into the peace of God's reign - especially those most excluded. Jesus, have mercy.

or

  • Christ Jesus, you heal the sick and pardon the sinner. Jesus, have mercy.
  • Christ Jesus, you listen to the cries of the afflicted. Christ, have mercy.
  • Lord Jesus, for the times we failed to welcome others. Jesus, have mercy.

Opening Prayer

Compassionate God,

you have become flesh in Christ Jesus.

Heal us from all divides us,

and the prejudice which isolates us.

May we have faith

to reach out and touch the untouchable

and love the unlovable.

Prayer over the Gifts

Compassionate God,

we make this offering in response to your word.

May we be renewed in our minds and hearts

so that we reflect in our lives

your love to those excluded in our society.

Prayer after Communion

God of compassion,

you have nourished us

with the body and blood of your Son.

May we always hunger for his presence in our lives.

Prayer of the Faithful

Introduction: Let us pray to the God of compassion that our hearts may be spacious enough to welcome and love all people in Jesus' name. The response is: God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

or

Introduction: As Jesus welcomed the outcast, touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable, may we be conscious of those we often fail to remember. The response is: God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That the leaders of the nations of the world continue to intensify diplomatic efforts and seek new and creative options to avert conflict rather than to resort to war and violence. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That leaders of our country will seek to build peace through strong ties of friendship and understand rather than to sow further mistrust and discord by building instruments and weapons of war. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That the people of Gaza have their pain and suffering acknowledged, that their rights be respected, and that they receive every assistance in order to live in peace with justice. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That the leaders of churches and other faiths raise their voices strongly and call their people to have compassionate hearts towards all people - without prejudice, stereotype and judgment. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That as we look into our hearts to recognise whatever ‘demons’ of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other fears might exist in our midst, acknowledge them and seek to overcome them. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That on this World Day of Prayer for the Sick we acknowledge the pain and suffering of people, their need for understanding and inclusion and have their illness, particularly mental illness, taken seriously and responded to. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That those who are sick and infirm in our community and who are confined to home or bed may experience warm acceptance from their carers, neighbours and families so that they do not experience isolation in their situation. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That we will seek to make space for people who seek security, protection or a better life rather than erecting walls to keep them out. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That the victims of discrimination, those written off by society, the sick and aged may maintain trust and hope because of those who care for them. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That the people who live in remote areas of the world and whose suffering is ignored and their pain unreported may be remembered. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

  • That the people who have fallen on difficult times, who have lost their jobs, their homes and means of caring for those they love will find practical and psychological support. Hear us, O God. God of Compassion, hear our prayer.

Concluding Prayer: God of untiring compassion, make us more like Jesus, that the gulf between our prayers and our deeds may narrow, and our touch become more discerning, sensitive and adept in all our dealings with those around us.

Notices

February 11 International Day of Women and Girls inScience

February 11 World Day of prayer for the Sick

February 11 Project Compassion Sunday

February 12 Beginning of the Freedom Ride  in Australia (1965)

February 12 Murder of Sr Dorothy Stang, eco-defender in Brazil (2005)

February 13 Apology to the Stolen Generations by the Australian Government (2008),

February 13 Death of Faith Bandler AC activist for indigenous and South Sea Islander rights (2015)

February 14 St Valentine’s Day

February 14 Ash Wednesday

February 16 Chines New Year/Vietnamese Tet

Further Resources

People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.

James Baldwin, Novelist 1924-1987

The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism.

Emma Goldman, Feminist, Labor Advocate, 1869-1940

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It's amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease. When the poor share some of the power that the affluent now monopolize, we will give a damn.

Cesar Chavez - Farm Workers' Union Founder, Human Rights Activist, 1927-1993

Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.

Wendell Berry

The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another's throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose-especially their lives.

Eugene Debs http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article29638.htm

Lepers, Jesus and Us [Mark 1:40-45]

Just another leper,

the better left unseen,

‘Surely it’s all their own fault

for not keeping clean.’

Just another aids case

now hidden well away,

‘They must have brought it on themselves

promiscuous or gay.’

Just another boat person

sponging on me and you,

‘They’ve only got themselves to blame

by trying to jump the queue.’

Just another drug addict

shooting up behind the shed,

‘Don’t waste your pity on such trash

they’re better off dead.’

Just one determined Jesus

coming through our lands,

touching all the unclean mob

with warm, saving hands.

© B D Prewer 2002

…whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral, dressed in a shroud….

Walt Whitman [1819-1892] US poet.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

James Baldwin, writer and civil rights leader.

There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Understand that all battles are waged on an unconscious level before they are begun on the conscious one, and this battle is no different. The power structure wishes us to believe that the only options available are those which they present to us, we know this is simply not true, and therefore we must redefine the terrain of this conflict, and clearly, it is a conflict of worldviews and agendas.

Teresa Stover

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

Charles Mackay

Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything - you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

Robert A. Heinlein

Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it.

John Lennon

How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?

Howard Zinn

No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.

John F. Kennedy

Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.

Noam Chomsky

The western world now obeys the precepts of commerce. A bloody demanding religion, if you ask me. The do's and don'ts change every season and your ‘everyone’ doesn't want to be left out, so they rush headlong to comply. That continuous change has a function, a single aim. Maximum consumption. They want to go on milking you. From the cradle to the grave. Face it: You’re a brain washed ,walking purse, a robot,the fuel multinationals run on.

Esther Verhoef

With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

Henry A. Wallace

Only a large-scale popular movement toward decentralization and self-help can arrest the present tendency toward statism... A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers.’

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of the colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. Each time a person stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, (s)he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Robert F. Kennedy

We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.

Edward Bernays

Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.

My shoulder is against yours.

You will not find me in stupas,

not in Indian shrine rooms,

nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:

not in masses, nor kirtans,

not in legs winding around your own neck,

nor in eating nothing but vegetables.

When you really look for me, you will see me instantly -

you will find me in the tiniest house of time.

Kabir says: student, tell me, what is God?

He is the breath inside the breath.

Kabir [1440-1518] Indian mystic and poet revered by both Hindus and Muslims.

Never lose hope...

Every Warrior of the Light

has felt afraid of going into battle.

Every Warrior of the Light

has, at some time in the past, lied or betrayed someone.

Every Warrior of the Light

has trodden a path that was not his.

Every Warrior of the Light

has suffered for the most trivial of reasons.

Every Warrior of the Light

has, at least once, believed he was not a Warrior of the Light.

Every Warrior of the Light

has failed in his spiritual duties.

Every Warrior of the Light

has said 'yes' when he wanted to say 'no.'

Every Warrior of the Light

has hurt someone he loved.

That is why he is a Warrior of the Light,

Because he has been through all this

and yet has never lost hope of being better than he is.

Paulo Coelho, Brazilian Author from his book: Warrior Of The Light

A Eulogy for Peace - by an Old Aboriginal

Why don't white man sit down quiet by fire?

Not stand up and call other country-fella liar.

What white-fella want to talk about fight for?

Everybody have plenty still want more.

He have big house,

Money in pocket,

Yet he not satisfied:

Want to make bigger rocket.

One day I bet pretty damn soon

Rocket go straight like spear

Put man on moon.

Then I bet plenty trouble

Moon and earth burst like bubble.

People go round like leaf in willy-willy,

Tear their hair,

All sorry and silly.

White-fella and him piccannin die in city,

Black-fella in bush, he feel pity.

White-fella wrong, call each other liar,

Should have sat down quietly and talked by fire.

Jack Davis in The First-born and Other Poems Melbourne, J.M. Dent, 1983

Ebony and Ivory

Ebony and Ivory live together in perfect harmony

side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don't we?

We all know that people are the same where ever we go

There is good and bad in ev'ryone,

we learn to live, we learn to give

each other what we need to survive together alive.

Ebony and Ivory live together in perfect harmony

side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord why don't we?

Ebony, ivory living in perfect harmony

Ebony, ivory, ooh

We all know that people are the same where ever we go

There is good and bad in ev'ryone,

we learn to live, we learn to give

each other what we need to survive together alive.

Ebony and Ivory live together in perfect harmony

side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord why don't we?

Ebony, ivory living in perfect harmony (repeat and fade)

Paul McCartney

Mother -- Father God:

Help us to hear the word and put it into practice.

Let us hear again the challenge of the great prophets.

Let us do what is right and love with enthusiasm.

Sophia – Wisdom:

Help us to hear the word and put it into practice.

Help us to discern the way of peace.

Help us to discern the way of right action.

God of heaven and earth:

Help us to hear the word and put it into practice.

Let us hear again the stories of our ancestors in faith.

Let us create new stories today – stories of faith in action.

God of peace and justice:

Help us to hear the word and put it into practice.

Help us to listen to the world and the cries of those in need.

Help us to respond in solidarity with all those in need.

Holy Spirit:

Help us to hear the word and put it into practice.

Fill us with an enthusiasm and joy for what is right and good.

Fill us with virtue that we might do what is good for all.

Center of Concern

Peace is not a passive but an active condition, not a negation but an affirmation. It is a gesture as strong as war.

Mary Roberts Rinehart

The solidarity which binds all people together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist.

Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, #157

How can it be that even today there are still people dying of hunger? Condemned to illiteracy? Lacking the most basic medical care? Without a roof over their heads? . . . Christians must learn to make their act of faith in Christ by discerning His voice in the cry for help that rises from this world of poverty.

Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, no. 50

During the last few years, politics has worked perversely: taxes on the wealthy have been cut, and so have programs directed at the poor. The reason isn't difficult to explain. Many Americans-- especially those who have been losing ground have given up on politics. As their incomes have shrunk, they've lost confidence that the ‘system’ will work in their interest. That cynicism has generated a self-fulfilling prophesy. Politicians stop paying attention to people who don't vote, who don't work the phone banks or walk the precincts, who have opted out. And the political inattention seems to justify the cynicism. Meanwhile, the top tier has experienced precisely the opposite--a virtuous cycle in which campaign contributions have attracted the rapt attention of politicians, the attention has elicited even more money, which in turn has given the top tier even greater influence. 
Robert Reich, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor
If money be not thy servant, it will be thy master. The covetous man cannot so properly be said to possess wealth, as that may be said to possess him.
Sir Francis Bacon - (1561-1626) Philosopher, essayist, British Lord Chancellor

I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world - no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.
Woodrow Wilson 
‘I would rather lose in a cause that will some day win,
than win in a cause that will some day lose’
[Unknown]

O, God,

help us to be agents of healing and border crossers,

help us to form alliances with those who are hurting,

help us to bring together coalitions which will address all forms of injustice,

and help us to risk helping in situations where we may be ‘outed’

even before we are fully ready to claim our rightful places in the community.

Amen

Reflections on the readings

In 2014, former refugee and Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson gave the Massey Lectures for the Canadian Broadcasting Commission.  In one talk, she referred to the killing of a police officer in Ottawa and how it shook the nation. Then, two days later a mosque was defaced in one part of the city. However, within a few hours, the residents of the town came to restore the mosque. Clarkson spoke of this chain of events - from national tragedy to an act of local decency – not as a matter of tolerance or kindness but of identity – identity defined by relationships with others. She said, ‘… in belonging to ourselves and to society, we have the greatest possibility to live full lives, connected to all human beings.’  Clarkson’s view was that identity and belonging does not mean exclusion of others as we have seen among political leaders who wish to score points when people who are Muslim or asylum seekers or immigrants are vilified. She said, ‘I have made belonging the interest of my life. I was, and am, a child of diaspora. I am someone who, for a while, did not belong anywhere. And I will always be someone who understands the everlasting anguish of not belonging.’ She then continued, ‘We are most fully human, most truly ourselves, most authentically individual, when we commit to the community. It is in the mirror of our community – the street, the neighbourhood, the town, the country – that we find our best selves.’

The good news is that the Incarnation - God becoming flesh – is an ongoing process.. God is continually taking on our flesh, our sufferings and joys, our successes and failures and we continue that. The good news is that God’s vision and movement is directed toward abundant life for all people in every condition of life - not just the privileged, worthy, or healthy. It is living a full life connected to all human beings. And, Jesus in the gospel is approached by one who is considered to be among the ‘living dead,’ alienated from their family and friends, considered a social and religious corpse that haunted the fringes of town, but sought kindness and charity.

All around our world millions of people are on the move from homes in rural areas to cities within their own countries or cross borders into other countries for various reasons such as environmental degradation, violence, and economic injustice. And more and more they are not welcome which raises the question ‘who is in and who is out?’ Leviticus, in stark contrast to the Gospel today, tells us who is out, who is rejected because of fear that his affliction would infect others. So he must live alone and separated from society. Many people on the move encounter  similar reactions and are labelled foreigners or “illegals.” They are accused of stealing jobs, draining community resources, and threatening the way of life. Those in power often used them as scapegoats, stirring passions and distracting attention from underlying problems. Struggling people are given someone to blame, anger, hatred and demonisation.  

John Tayman, in The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai (2006) writes that ‘Leprosy is quite possibly the most powerful metaphor for 'otherness' that there is’. Jesus’ was ‘moved with pity (compassion) not just because of the man’s illness but systems and structures that caused people misery. The gospel focuses on a man’s religious and social alienation and Jesus’ intervention in his life. People are still treated as modern day lepers – undesirables who pollute society and contaminate our way of living or way of life due to their difference in race, culture, social mores, or physical and intellectual disabilities. There was a ‘leper mindset’ in Nazi attitudes and actions towards Semitic people, of Hutus towards Tutsis in Rwanda, the second people to Australia towards the first people.

Jesus healed the man outside the community. That’s how many feel - cast off and forgotten.Today, it might be drug addicts, people living with HIV/AIDS, the unemployed, people in prison or recently out of prison, gay and lesbian people especially when their demands for equality are seen as weakening the moral fibre of our social institutions. Was not  God’s Reign present when Pope Francis met with a transgender woman who had been excluded from her parish and labelled as the ‘devil’s daughter’ by her Spanish parish priest.  Yet, Pope Francis was not afraid to meet with her and her partner. Was not God;s Reign present when we saw Pope Francis embrace and kiss an hideously disfigured man in St Peter’s Square. These are two of many every day examples that occur in our daily lives. But, do our stomachs burn as did Jesus’ stomach when people were excluded for whatever reason?  People have been told on occasion that they should not come to Church on Sunday because they were dirty or smelled bad. And what about people living with disability, LGBTIQ people, elderly people, immigrants, the very poor and even young people? Communities can say that everyone is welcome but no takes responsibility for that welcome as they come through the door.  We also have a choice. Where will we sit and who will we sit with? Will our presence contribute to the taking down the walls that separate people according to religious, social, economic, racial, gender, etc. differences, or build higher walls and greater gaps. The leper’s physical pain and misery was heightened by being considered unworthy of living amongst others. He would also have thought that he was unloved by God. God does not touch us or love us in a vacuum. Did not Job look for the love of God in his companions last week? How many young people have given up on Church or even God because they have been isolated by others in the community or in family, eg.., many gay and lesbian people. Like the leper who would have thought his illness was a punishment from God, many young people have in the past seen their sexual orientation as a punishment from God.

But, we see that Jesus makes no attempt to move away. A few weeks ago, Jesus invited some disciples, who wanted to know where he lived, to ‘come and see’. We are also invited. Where do we see Jesus? We see him anyone reaches out in compassion; we see him when stomachs ache in the face of exclusion and act on it; we see him when we refuse to allow social taboos, colleagues, friends, family, determine our response to another person. We see him when we go beyond the usual boundaries set out by our church and society. Jesus tells us, when he cures the excommunicated leper, where we should be found, that is, ‘outside the pale’ – beyond traditional boundaries. That is where we find him … and his community.

Mark shows us what can happen when God’s Reign takes hold in our world. Though injustice and violence and greed have not been transformed by justice, peace and sharing, the reign of God is at hand as a leper loses his 'other' status.  The reign of God is at hand as we see Jesus associating with those who are the 'other' of his day and he takes on that same status of 'other.' The reign of God is at hand when we seek those at the margins and overcome whatever prevents us from seeing God's image in them. The Reign is present wherever people stand in solidarity with anyone who is marginalised or disregarded. It is present when Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians work together for practical and symbolic reconciliation. It is present when ordinary people quietly and consistently carry out the gospel things they have always done in their neighbourhoods. It is present when any minority group not only seeks its own rights but also seeks the rights of other minority groups [Indigenous people calling for humanitarian treatment of asylum seekers, gays struggling alongside Indigenous people, women, workers, people living with disabilities for their rights.]. Jesus has taken on the ‘otherness’ of others in whatever form they appear to us, and calls us to do the same. Though leprosy seems to have lost much of its stigma, other forms of ‘leprosy’ emerge where new groups can be identified as the least, the last and the lost.

Today we see Jesus again stretch the rules. He touched one whom others would not touch. Embraces one who society isolated. Jesus’ anger was against the social exclusion. I can imagine Jesus saying, ‘You have heard it was said of old, ‘Thou shalt........but I say to you: keep changing everything.’ It is a different model of love and inclusiveness. It is about bringing outsiders inside. Jesus stretched out his hand because his ‘guts’ continue to churn when we try to outcast a person, a group, or a nation – or remove ourselves from their vision. His words and actions indicate that in God’s Reign there will be no outcasts. Will we be part of the chorus of voices that call for inclusion in all its forms despite what those in authority say?  Jesus’ compassion to an ‘outsider’ put him in conflict with the religious leaders and the Law.

We need to ask ourselves who we refuse to touch. Not just physically touch, but also by a lack of concern and respect. To whom do we deny affirmation? Who are those from whom we withhold compassion? Those whom we are content to treat as the non-persons? 

On our part, if we don’t want to touch other lives, if we don’t want to be healing agents of Jesus among the untouchables of society, or for the hard-to-love people in our family or church, then we might understand why God’s Reign is not being realised…and why the church is often seen as irrelevant. Jesus is not referring to a vague person ‘out there’ but the very people we encounter every day….. the reserved or shy, the ugly and the smelly, the thin skinned and the awkward, the depressed, those living with a disability, the over-talkative or the self-opinionated, the socially inept and the bluntly spoken ones? 

Whatever diminishes human life, Jesus reaches out to touch – and he now depends on each of us to do it. We cannot be uninvolved in this broken world where many are kept at a distance because of their race, national origin, lack of education, poverty, physical condition, gender and sexual orientation. Unless we can see the Aboriginal Australian, the Iraqi, the Palestinian or Jewish person, the Syrian, the North Korean, the gay and lesbian, the person addicted to drugs, the person living with mental illness as a child of God, as a sister or brother, then God’s Reign cannot be fully realised. The old law said to exclude people or put them out, but Jesus’ words ring throughout the gospel and in the lives of many faithful people: ‘but I say….. no’….. ‘you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your peer brother/sister, but you shall open your hand wide to the other.’ (Dt 18:74)

The man’s life was changed not by any observance of religious codes or rituals, but by Jesus’ compassion, his touch and his words. We have already seen in Mark that Jesus doesn’t draw on other authorities for his teaching and practices. Two weeks ago we heard the astonished crowds say, ‘He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes’ (1:22). The barriers are down; where is God to be found? According to today’s gospel, among the outcasts.

The gospel story should also compel us to come before Jesus like the leper and find that Jesus looks upon us as he did the leper – seeing us as we are and also deeply moved and compelled to touch us, to heal us.

6TH SUNDAY