Reading I (Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46)
Reading II (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1)
Gospel (St. Mark 1:40-45)
At the end of the second reading today, Saint Paul tells us that we are to imitate him as he imitates Christ. In order to do that, Saint Paul tells us that he has tried to become all things to all people so that he would save at least some of them. To imitate Our Lord is something that all of us are to do, and not merely to imitate Him, but we are to live the life of Christ Himself because each one of us is a member of Jesus Christ through Baptism; therefore, we share in His divine life. Literally and actually, as Saint Peter tells us, we become partakers of the divine nature. As such, we have been raised to a supernatural level of acting and being, but it still requires on our part a choice to be able to do that. We can choose to live the life of Christ, or we can choose to reject it. It is not something that just comes naturally to us, but it is something we have to make an effort to do. Saint Paul tells us that we are to do everything for the glory of God. Even if we eat and drink, he tells us we are to do it for the glory of God. That, of course, is simply imitating Christ. Every single thing that Jesus ever did was for the greater glory of God and for the good of others.
If we look, for instance, in the readings, we can ask ourselves, “What will it look like if I imitate Jesus?” First of all, we have to understand that Our Lord came and took on everything that was ours. He became like us in everything but sin. And while He never did sin, He took on the punishment for our sins, even to the point where Saint Paul reminds the Galatians that Jesus became a curse for us because it is written, “Cursed is the one who is hanged upon a tree.” Therefore, Saint Paul says that He became a curse for us. It was our sins that deserved all of that, not anything He did. So, first of all, we see that He was willing to do anything and everything for us. Then He took on every possible human condition.
You look in the Gospel today and Jesus is talking to a leper. While Jesus did not actually take on leprosy Himself (that is, He was never afflicted with the disease), He took on everything that the lepers would need to. Look at the first reading today and hear what it says: If someone has leprosy, they are to live apart from everyone else. Because leprosy was a communicable disease, they were not to be among the people, and so there were these leper colonies. If they did go into town for some reason, they would have to cry out, “Unclean, unclean,” so that everyone knew as they were walking along that this was the case. Then look at what it tells us in the Gospel: Jesus healed the leper. While that is a great miracle by itself, He tells the man to go and show himself to the priest because that is what was required. It was the priest who would be able to declare something to be leprosy, and it was also the priest who had to declare that the person was free of leprosy and therefore allow the person back into the community. In this case, this man had leprosy, and he comes to Jesus and asks the Lord to heal him. Our Lord heals the man, but then we are told that Jesus could no longer enter into a town but rather He had to stay out in the deserted places, exactly what a leper would have to do. A leper could not go into where the people were; he had to stay out. And that is what Our Lord did. He healed this man of leprosy, and in so doing He took on the effects which would have fallen upon this man.
That is exactly what He does with us because we need to recognize that there is a leprosy which is far, far worse than the physical variety, and that is the spiritual leprosy of sin which affects our souls. As I mentioned a moment ago, we see what Our Lord has done for us. He never sinned, but He took on our sins and He took the effects of our sins to Himself. We see Him in the Garden of Gethsemane completely crushed to the point of blood dripping from His pores. Then we see Him carrying the Cross, and ultimately being nailed to the Cross and dying for our sins.
Saint Paul tell us, then, that we, at the moment of our baptism, have been baptized into the death and the resurrection of Christ. This is what we are to live. He came into this world and took on everything that is ours so that we could take on everything that is His. Therefore, we are to live His life. We are to see what Our Lord did in the Gospel – how He carried Himself, how He spoke, and what He did – and we are to imitate it. We are to take it on to ourselves and we are to live as He lived.
That means, first and foremost, a life of charity. We see in the life of Our Lord how He did this. Never once did He sin. Again, everything was for the greater glory of God and for the good of the neighbor. And what were His commandments to us? Love God and love your neighbor. If everything that we do is done for the greater glory of God, then we are not going to sin because how can we say that doing something which violates a commandment of God is for His greater glory?
And so what we need to strive for is to get rid of sin in our lives. Far too many of us are quite content with our sins. We really do not want to get rid of them because we like them too much. Jesus came into this world to destroy sin; therefore, sin has no business being in the life of a Christian person. We are sinners, we are weak, and we are going to fall, but there is a difference between that and wanting to sin, liking to sin. We need to hate sin. Look at the crucifix. Look at the price of your own sins. Then we can ask ourselves as we look at Jesus on the Cross: Do I really want to look at Him and say, “You know what, I really wish You wouldn’t have done that because I like my sins too much. I don’t want them to be gone; I like my sins”? Is that the attitude of a Christian person? Yet without saying it, is not that the attitude many of us have? We really do not want to get rid of our sins. All you need to do is look into your life and ask yourself, “What are the areas where you are violating the Lord?” Maybe you are not out committing huge mortal sins, but we all have the little things that we do. And maybe some of us are committing some big mortal sins. What are you doing to get rid of them? Are you avoiding the occasions of sin? Are you striving diligently to get rid of the sins?
For instance, one thing that we can look at is how many of us may have problems with the Internet and some of the filthy, rotten things that are on it. Get rid of it. If you start to bristle at the thought, then I would suggest that you like your sin a little too much. If you are not willing to get rid of what is going to lead you into sin, then you are choosing sin over freedom from sin. We can look at any area in our lives. We know there are things we need to make changes in, but we do not want to. It is inconvenient, we think it is too hard, or we just simply do not want to, which I am afraid is the problem most of us suffer with. We just do not want to change because we like our sins too much. So that is the first area if we are going to imitate Christ: We need to get rid of everything that is going to be offensive to God. That is why Jesus came, so that we could be free from sin and live in accordance with the freedom of the children of God. Therefore, we need to get rid of everything that makes us slaves to sin so we can have the freedom that Our Lord came to purchase for us at the price of His own life.
Then we need to work on loving our neighbor. We need to practice true charity toward others. That means being willing to reach out to them, being kind to them. It means simply smiling and saying “hello” to somebody. It does not require anything heroic in most occasions to do this. It just means being kind. In America, we do not even know what that means anymore. We look at the sidewalk when we walk by somebody so we do not have to say “hello.” We are caught up in our own little world so we do not have to interact with anyone else. We are so selfish that we have lost the concept of what love of neighbor means, so that even minimal charity has fallen away. What about the way you drive on the freeway? When was the last time you slowed down to let someone in who had their blinker and wanted to move over? Christian charity does not say, “Cut them off, get into road rage, and see if you can make that person’s life miserable.” Christian charity says, “Let them in – even if he is driving like a maniac.” If the guy is driving like a maniac, why do you want to take him on? Get out of the way, for your own good and everybody else’s, and let him in. It is our pride that tells us we need to go head to head with this person. It is our pride that tells us we need to do to him what he is doing to us. As Christian people, we are called to forgive. We are called to change our lives.
So when Saint Paul is telling us that we need to do everything in imitation of Christ, we need to consider how Jesus would do some things and how He did do some things, and then we need to put that into practice. That means we have to make some serious changes in our lives. Tragically, most of us do not want to do that. It is not an option. If we are truly going to be Catholic, even if we are going to be truly Christian, we do not have an option. There is no room for anger. There is no room for greed. There is no room for selfishness. There is no room for lust. There is no room for pride. On and on the list can go. We are called to live as Jesus Christ lived, and we are called to allow Him to live in us and through us so that we literally are living the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lived according to what He commanded us to do; He did everything for the glory of God. He loved God and He loved neighbor perfectly, and He left us the commandment that we too, like Him, would love God and love neighbor and allow Him to live His life in us and through us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.