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FRIDAY HOMILY: Unclean.Unclean? No, Awake, Awake!

By Fr. Randy Sly
June 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

What attracts me to this subject is a fundamental change in the values of society as a whole. This has me vexed. Not only do I find homosexual activists celebrating the victory, but - from social media - I see members of my extended family, acquaintances and former work associates joining in the festivities, citing some type of great altruistic victory for mankind.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Most of us are still reeling from the Supreme Court decision released earlier this week regarding marriage. Rehearsing the issue one more time will not help us come up with any additional insights per se as people much smarter than I have already weighed in.

What attracts me to this subject is a fundamental change in the values of society as a whole. This has me vexed. Not only do I find homosexual activists celebrating the victory, but - from social media - I see members of my extended family, acquaintances and former work associates joining in the festivities, citing some type of great altruistic victory for mankind.

In reflecting on this while studying the gospel passage for today, a theme emerged that I want to explore - that we are becoming a leprous nation.

In Matthew's Gospel, chapter 8 verses 1 through 4,, we are now finished with the Christ's Sermon on the Mount. As Jesus comes down the mountain, he is met by a leper who wanted to be made clean.

Leprosy was a major problem in New Testament times. Those who were infected were exiled into colonies to keep their contagious disease from spreading. Many lepers were horribly disfigured by the disease and often concealed their appearances when around the general public.

Scholars disagree as to the exact nature of leprosy, believing that it not only included what would be considered leprosy today but also other diseases that disfigured or affected people with physical changes. Whether or not that is the case, the condition, which we now call Hansen's Disease, was definitely a major contributor to the leper population.

We normally think of leprosy as a skin disorder, it's greatest impact in in the peripheral nervous system that extends from the brain and spinal cord. Those stricken can experience disfigurement of the skin and bones, including tumors. The limbs can be twisted and fingers curled like a claw. Sometimes the nose will collapse and the outer ear will grow thick.

The greatest impact, however, comes from the bacterium, which destroys nerve endings that carry pain signals to the brain. Lepers, upon losing pain sensitivity, are subject to injury and infection without knowing that anything is wrong.

As I read over this gospel passage again and again, I'm reminded of the different kinds of leprosy that we can experience. Through the constant bombardment by the world the flesh and the devil, we can become dulled in the heart and undergo a kind of spiritual leprosy. This seems to be what our nation is going through right now.

For example, it would seem that we, as a society, no longer seem to have the same sensitivity to the pain of sin as we used to have. Not only do we see our courts dulled to moral virtue and the common good, a growing segment of our population seem to be unaware that their consciences are no longer pricked by overt sensuality, abuses regarding the dignity of the human person, the death of unborn children and the decay of language, among other things.

In January of 2003, Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon authored an editorial in Touchstone Magazine that highlighted the very concern I'm raising. Ten years ago the spotlight was particularly on abortion. Now natural marriage and religious liberty are also at risk.

"We are not convinced, therefore," Fr. Reardon writes, "that a judicial reversal of Roe v. Wade, though it remains a favor much to be craved, would necessarily diminish the number of legal abortions performed in this country. More likely, such a development would simply shift the pertinent political agitation back to the state legislatures, where, we suspect, the pro-life cause would lose more battles than its proponents contemplate. Law and politics, we contend, lie downstream from culture, and the current cultural state of our nation, particularly with respect to abortion, seems to us not one whit better than it was during the years leading up to 1973.

"Politics and law, we said, lie downstream from culture. Therefore, the real and deeper dilemma, the dilemma arguably as disturbing as abortion itself, is cultural." (Underscores are from me)

We are not only facing a political battle but a cultural epidemic, where a segment of the population has been infected and no longer sensitive to the moral and spiritual values that were inherently present at the founding of our nation. Truly, our founders probably never envisioned that this would happen.

We are not the first nation to experience this, nor will we be the last. The problem remains, however, that without some kind of major intervention, this leprous condition will simply destroy its host.

During the brief history of the United States there have been some great spiritual awakenings. The term "awakening" seems quite appropriate as many seemed to awaken from their spiritual passivity and re-connect with their faith. Called "revivals" or "renewals" by some, these events seemed to be introduced into a culture with some surprise. The same can be said for similar movements of God in Great Britain and Europe.

While these events almost appeared out of nowhere, most who studied these phenomena have realized that they have occurred as a result of fervent and constant prayer by those concerned with the current state of affairs.

We are at the midpoint of the Fortnight of Freedom, which has been proclaimed by our bishops as a time of prayer and intercession for our nation. We are being called upon to fulfil our responsibilities as Catholic patriots in called America back to God.

It would seem that without divine intervention we are heading for harder times. Yet, the spread of leprosy can be abated when those affected will, as in today's reading describes, cry out to the Lord and say, "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean."

This is not a time to give up; this is a time to stand up and pray.

Our first prayer should be for our Church, that God would awaken the sleepers who need to join the rest of us in this season of intercession. We need to pray for the grace and strengthening of God to enliven them to action.

At World Youth Day in the year 2000 in Rome, Pope John Paul II looked out on the millions of young men and women present and said, It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.

These are the qualities of the army of intercessors needed today!

Then we need to pray for our nation and our leaders, praying fervently and regularly.

A quote from Edmund Burke perhaps may be overused in recent days, yet the truth that underlies his comment is anything but cliché. He said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Now is not the time to do nothing. Let us stand up as Catholic patriots and pray that the healing hand of the Lord be extended over the leprosy of the land.

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Father Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and a priest with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (http://usordinariate.org) established by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, through the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. He is currently the chaplain of the St. John Fisher Ordinariate Community, a priest in residence at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church and Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Ordinariate. He is a popular speaker for parishes, apostolates and organizations.

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