Of leprosy and the meaning of fasting and our Christian community


Father Joseph Kim’s homily dovetailed nicely with the talk Deacon Joe Bell gave this past Wednesday about fasting. A key passage in the homily and the discussion is Deuteronomy 5:1-6:

The Saints call us to fasting and returning to Christian Community

As mentioned on Wednesday, “Not with our fathers did the Personal Name make this Social Contract…” Each time the Jewish community celebrates Passover, they relive the Exodus from Egypt for the first time. God liberates each generation anew. The Eucharist is Jesus’ Passion, a Passover event. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus and his Passion becomes present among us. We fast during Lent, remembering our participation, our suffering, our ostracism,  with him in his Passion.

Father Joseph Kim’s homily discusses ostracism, the two groups of people casting themselves out of community, and their spiritual death. Like the leper in the Gospel reading for this Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Torah requires the first group to go yell, “Unclean, unclean,” an early form of Quarantine. These people left the community not to spread their leprosy. In the process, they became outcast from their community their Temple, and their Jewish/our Catholic faith.

They are like those in prison. The US has 5% of the world population and 25% of the world’s prison population. They are the people we do not want to see. These people suffer from two forms of pain. First, they are in prison. They are also the people of the Great Northern Migration from slavery in the south to another form of slavery and ostracism in the north. They migrated north, as our Hispanics today, looking for real jobs, real life with dignity, but finding menial work and ostracism. Too many are the 50.2 million people living in insecure households, including 17.2 million children called lazy, but only wanting real work with dignity.

The second form of pain is more hurtful, knowing they are not part of the “One Nation under God.” They are not part of “Real America.” They look different, speak different, or dress different, being poor, unable to pay for the latest styles; they are not part of “Real America.”

Father Kim discussed the second group. They are Anglo-Saxon, Scotch Irish, German, and Italian. They are in our boardrooms, the Pharisees, (Hebrew for Separate Ones.) They are the proper people who drive their Lexus with the darkened windows so as not to see, to work from their gated communities. In Reno, they live on Skyline. They live in mansions in the gated properties on Foothill. They are Sadducees, the just people who pay more than their fair share in taxes, even though they pay a tax rate of 15% on their dividends, while their secretaries pay 25% in payroll taxes.

Father Kim mentioned Matthew 25:31-Matthew 26:1. “As you have done to the least of these my brothers, you do it to me.” Matthew 26:1 begins the Passion. As we do to the least of these my brothers, those in prison, as long as we insist on being two nations, one black, one white, one rich, one poor, one enslaved by poverty, one enslaved by wealth, as long as we allow people to do without adequate food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and transportation, we participate in Jesus’ Passion as part of the crowd. As long as we fight these evils, we participate with Jesus in his Passion, through the Eucharist.

The Pharisees of our day do not see; they are not part of the One Nation under God. They are above, so do not feel the pain of separation. God can touch the lepers, the blind, and the lame. He cannot heal those who do not feel their own pain of separation. Greek has two words for touch. The first is ἅπτω, and means to bind together as glue. The second is “Therapy.” Jesus risks ostracism, touching the lepers of his time. He binds himself to them. Jesus also touches, giving therapy.

Jesus question to us is, “Do we do the same? Do we reach out and touch others? Are we the Pharisees and Sadducees, separated by our own sense of perfection, not needing the healing hand of God? If we do not need the healing hand of God, he cannot heal us.

Remember, “I am The Personal Name your Almighty, who rescued you from oppression.” If we do not remember what ostracism feels like, the Ten Words do not apply to us, but then again, neither does the rescue, the Kingdom of God.

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