Welcome back to the Sunday Mass notes for 2-15-2015. This week we open with the first reading from Leviticus in which we see the procedure for dealing with the skin disease of leprosy. While this may not seem like a random passage to read, it becomes an important back drop for the New Testament and Gospel reading where we learn that whole-hearted obedience to which Jesus calls His followers.
The first reading is from the Book of Leviticus, this provides some insight into the incident between Jesus and a man afflicted with leprosy that we will see later in the Gospel lesson.
(Leviticus 13:1-2) 1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 2 “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes an infection of leprosy on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests.
(Leviticus 13:44-46) 44 he is a leprous man, he is unclean. The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean; his infection is on his head. 45 “As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 “He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.
The Old Testament law gave specific regulations for the well-being of a community. One such regulation was that of infectious diseases. The disease of leprosy was could devastate a community, so God gave them instructions on how to deal with this problem. The person who had leprosy had to be inspected by the priest and separate himself from the rest of the people. This would be a dire diagnosis. The law also provided instructions for what a leprous person would do if they became healed. They must present themselves to the priest and offer a sacrifice (Lev. 14:1-32). This information will be important as we move toward the Gospel, since Jesus healed a man of leprosy. The priests would have had to dig out their law books to put this into practice, since being healed of leprosy was uncommon until Jesus came onto the scene.
The second reading is from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. In the context of this passage, Saint Paul addresses many issues that were perplexing the new believers in Corinth who had to make many decisions in a pagan culture. One of the decisions had to do with eating food that had been previously sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 10:18-19). He says that the food does not inherently have anything sacrilegious about it, but one’s motive was really the determining factor in all decisions for a godly life.
(1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1) 31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. 1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
Paul teaches that the underlying motive of the heart needs to be God’s glory, no matter what we do. It’s hard for us to imagine how eating or drinking can even have religious connotations, but he affirms that all of life can be sacred if done with God and His glory in mind. Part of God’s glory is when we surrender our wants and demands in order to bring others to know Him. Paul laid down his Jewish food purity laws to reach the Gentiles living in a pagan culture. We may not have this same backdrop, but we can still be challenged by this to consider how our lives lived for God can be useful for ministering to others who are different than us. That is how we can imitate Paul and so imitate Christ.
An example of this very thing happened this summer when we were in France on a cultural discovery trip. After church, we were invited over for a very culturally French tradition called “aperitif.” This tradition is a rare invitation to foreigners, so we felt honored to be invited to a French person’s home. But we were not normally used to imbibing in strong drink in the middle of the day, especially right after church. We drank and enjoyed their hospitality with a clear conscience because of Paul’s teaching. We were building bridges with people who needed to see the light of Christ in our lives and we met them on their turf for God’s glory.