BRIDGEPORT– “Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are at the heart of Lenten practice, but it should also be a season of opening our hearts to those we have given up on, avoided or cast aside as unworthy, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his homily for Mass on the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
After reading Mark’s account of Jesus healing the leper (1:40-45), the bishop said the people of the ancient world ostracized those with leprosy–a disease they did not understand– but that we in our technological society are still making lepers of people whom we find difficult to deal with or wish to separate from our lives.
In his weekly online Mass from the Catholic Center chapel, the bishop said that during the time of Jesus, leprosy was a curse that isolated those who suffered from it and forced them to live apart from society. Lepers were required to call out in warning if they saw people approaching, so others could avoid them.
“How is it possible that the leper would get so close to Jesus that he could speak with him?” the bishop asked, noting that the leper would have been prevented from getting near to Jesus.
“The leper didn’t go to Jesus– Jesus sought out the leper, Jesus went to him,” said the bishop who added that Jesus did something considered dangerous because he touched the leper when he healed him.
The bishop said the gospel message is clear, and it’s a challenge to us. “The leper stands for those who are ostracized, for those with whom we will have no relationship—for those we fear.”
“God has no lepers, the Lord Jesus will seek them out. He will find us in the condition in which we are, and he offers healing, forgiveness and peace.”
The bishop said the truth is that in contemporary life we have in one way or another “all declared other people to be lepers.”
He said there are people we have cut off, segregated and chosen not to relate to. “We won’t answer their texts, emails or phone calls—we have written them off and out of our lives.”
Still others, he said, we tolerate but we will not touch “or engage them heart to heart, hand to hand. We will keep the peace and do what’s required to remain civil, but nothing more, and once again we have made them lepers.”
“Jesus is challenging us to walk in his footsteps and stop creating lepers,” the bishop said, but that does not mean our relationship will be easy.
“At times it can even be tumultuous, if we speak truth or if truth is spoken to us. The truth may not be easy to hear or welcome but it is not an excuse to walk away or ostracize them as unclean.”
The bishop said that as we stand on the threshold of Lent and gather for ashes on our forehead next Wednesday, “whether rich or poor, young or old, educated or not, the destiny is the same; the difference is only the Lord can bring ashes to life and lepers to you.”
Bishop Caggiano concluded his homily by saying that as Christians we devote ourselves to prayer, almsgiving and fasting “in order to create a hunger in our life for the Lord and His Holy Spirit.”
“Wouldn’t it also be healing, liberating and a sign that we want our ashes to bring us new life if we also decided this Lent to visit the lepers.”
Before giving the final blessing the bishop told those who gathered with him for the online Mass that he would be issuing first Pastoral Exhortation on Ash Wednesday, which will launch a few months of intense spiritual preparation as we begin to plan for missionary outreach in the Fall and beyond as the pandemic recedes. He asked for prayer that the new year “will become a time of renewal, conversion, and new life for us all.”
The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist. You are invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 p.m. visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/