Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

SIXTH SUNDAY IN OT: REGAINING THE LOST SENSE OF PERSONHOOD

Mk 1:40-45

ON ONE OCCASION, our missionary priest in Thailand shared his apostolate with people afflicted with AIDS, somewhere in the northern part of that country. In most cases, it is difficult to understand why children could be the helpless victims of this disease. One day, there was a gathering of children with AIDS. Some of them were told to speak before the people. The most moving speech came from a small girl. She recounted that her parents died a few years ago because of the disease. Further she said, “I am also dead now. I know sooner, I will also die and follow my parents where they went.” Our priest cried upon recalling that event.

The situation of AIDS victims today may be compared to those people having leprosy in the olden days. Leprosy was a dreadful disease during the time of Jesus. The life or situation of a leper was something miserable. Once a person is sick with it, it would mean the end of his social life. Why? Because, he is compelled to withdraw from the community or society. It would be a pathetic life because a person loses his worth as a person. He would lose family ties, friends, and even occupation. All these were gone.

In the gospel, Jesus has done something to augment the situation.

First, let us look at the attitude of Jesus toward the leper. While people during his days did not give importance to the lepers, the attitude of Jesus was exactly the opposite. It was counter-cultural, so to say. The gospel says that Jesus was moved with “pity.” His compassion to the plight of the leper moved him to heal the leper. Pity can be seen in this respect as a divine attitude. But it is also an attitude that we humans should have toward others; especially now that more people tend to become arrogant and proud. These sort of people could not have an ability to feel pity.

Second, on the part of the leper, the healing was a way of regaining his lost worth as person. His healing was a restoration of social relationship. For years, he experienced the pain of “alienation” from the society brought about by the horrible sickness. The healing was a kind of regaining what was lost in him. He now becomes whole, be becomes again a “person” worthy of respect and love.

Going back to the situation of people having with AIDS, I think this is something that we people shouldponder. One time, a CNN program entitled, “Where have the parents gone?”, showed the story of communities in an African country in which children are being left behind. All their parents died of AIDS. These children live in these doomed communities and would soon die because of this sickness. These children need our compassion, a compassion that Jesus exhibited to the leper. We need to show compassion to children, like in Thiland, who hopelessly looked at themselves as already “dead,” because there is no hope that they could be healed from the disease.

Certainly, these are not the only kind of people in the society that need our compassion. There are people who, in one way or another, have lost their drive for life, their self-esteem because of certain reasons. There are cancer patients who also feel the hopelessness because science and medicine cannot offer yet a solution to their problem. There are husbands and wives who, for some reasons, are separated. There are also children who are victims of this separation.

Most of these people would withdraw themselves from the society or community. Like Jesus, our role is not only to show them compassion, but also to contribute in regaining the wholeness and worth of these people.

 


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