6th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B
Lv 13:1-2, 44-46 Psalm Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11, 1 Cor 10:31-11:1, Mk 1:40-45
One of the television shows that I watched as a kid was the show “The Saint”. The main character of this show was a cross between Robin Hood and James Bond. Every episode he would disguise himself and use the name of some Catholic Saint as an alias. Thus disguised he would rob from the rich and give to the poor using the coolest secret agent gadgets available.
Mark – The Gospel for Secret Agents and Spies
I mention the Saint because I jokingly refer to the Gospel of Mark as the Gospel of Secret Agents and Spies. I do this for two reasons; One, Mark’s Gospel is the Gospel of Action; Mark never wastes words describing the scene, Jesus is always busy doing things. The other reason why Mark’s Gospel is the Gospel of Spies and Secret agents is that He is always trying to keep his identity as the Messiah as a secret. In today’s Gospel Jesus orders the Leper not to tell anyone who cured him. The reason why Jesus is trying to keep his identity secret is that he wants people to encounter him as he really is, and not through their expectations. Jesus reveals the truth of his secret identity when he dies on the Cross to show us the fullness of God’s love.
Jesus’ Secret Mission
Not only does Jesus have a secret identity in the Gospel today, but he also has a secret mission. The secret mission of Jesus is to show God’s love to people, and to lead them to give thanks for God’s presence in their lives. We see this in the Gospel today, Jesus heals the Leper and sends him to offer sacrifice in the temple for his healing. This act of offering sacrifice is a way of offering praise and thanksgiving to the Father. The secret mission of Jesus is to give us grace and to invite us to return to God with thanksgiving in our hearts.
We too are Secret Agents for Christ
There is a saying, “you’re preaching to the choir”. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but today, “I am preaching to the spies”. I say this because all of us Christians here are called to be “Like Christ” – If Christ had a secret mission, then so do we. In the second reading today St. Paul helps us to carry out our mission in three concrete ways. We can think of these as three principles of living our lives as “Secret Agents of Christ”. These are
- Do Everything for the Glory of God
- Avoid giving offense, Try to please everyone in everyway.
- Seeking the Benefit of the many – that they may be saved.
Ad Majorem Dei Glroiam
St Ignatius of Loyola’s is a real-life example of the fictional Saint. The motto was was “ad majorem Dei gloriam“ – In English, “For the Greater Glory of God”. Whenever Ignatius thought about some new undertaking, or some new venture, he always evaluated it in the light of this saying. If the goal, the purpose of the idea he had would result in the greater glory of God, then he would do it, if not, then he would discard it.
It is healthy for us too to develop a motto or slogan that we use to guide our lives. This is helpful because God has created each one of us for a specific mission, purpose in this life. Reflecting on that, and having a way to express it, often gives us a way to focus our life here on earth and order it to be productive and fruitful. If there is just one thing to remember from this homily today – it is that homework assignment – pray about your personal mission statement.
Try to please everyone in everyway.
Once we have a motto, then we understand how to frame our entire life. This was the case for the French-Canadian Blessed Andre Bessette. He had it in his heart to join the Holy Cross brothers in Montreal, but they refused because he was illiterate and ill. Perseverance and providence paid off and in 1870 he entered the order, and was given the job of door keeper, laundry worker and messenger. He spent the next 67 years of his life trying to follow the exhortation of St. Paul to “Please everyone in everyway”. This does not mean that Blessed Andre was a doormat for everyone coming to the brothers, on the contrary, he understood that the best way to please everyone in everyway was for him to allow them to encounter Christ in his actions whenever they came to the brothers in need. When people came to Blessed Andre’s door, he listen to them, he prayed with them and God used him to heal them. So many people were miraculously cured through his prayers that at the time of his death in 1937 he was receiving 80,000 letters a year from people asking for his prayers or needing advice. God used Andre’s pure devotion of heart to reach his people in the simple way he answered the door and took care of those who came before him.
“not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved”
As a teenager, St. Therese of Liseux wanted to be a missionary, to travel to wild lands and win souls for Christ. She made her first convert when she was only fifteen years old. There was a notorious murderer named Henri Pranzini on death row in France at the time. Therese prayed intensely to God that he would convert before his death. When she read the paper the day after his execution at the Guillotine, she saw that this man had asked to kiss the crucifix three times before being beheaded. This convicted Therese that the best way she could help others was through her fervent prayer so when she grew up she entered the Carmel at Lisuex and spent the rest of her life as a cloistered nun praying for the conversion of souls. This is what she wrote later in her life about how she was living out her vocation;
"I feel in me the vocation of the Priest. I have the vocation of the Apostle. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth and this dream has grown with me. Considering the mystical body of the Church, I desired to see myself in them all. Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places...in a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my Love...my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love!”
Our homily today began with Simon Templar, “The Saint” who robbed the rich and give to the poor while using the name of some obscure Catholic Saint as his identity. In some way we are imitating him by taking the rich grace that God gives us and bringing it to the poor in our lives. We do this by listening, caring for and loving those we live and work with. When we look at the saints, Ignatius, Andres and Therese we see the many different ways that they lived out their lives responding to the love of God. Our secret mission is the same, and it is perhaps best summed up by St. Paul in the second reading today when he says; “Be imitators of Me, as I am of Christ”.
That – my Brothers and Sisters is our mission this week. The question is, are we brave enough to carry it out?