In the readings for this Sunday, Feb. 11, the isolating nature of sin and illness are explored. But God doesn’t want us to be alone, and he offers us healing and community.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
In the readings for this Sunday, Feb. 11, we encounter stories of illness that cause alienation from community, and a remedy for that alienation — God’s healing power. Sunday is also the World Day of the Sick and we happen to be in the midst of a particularly bad flu season. So many families are experiencing that need to be isolated for the sake of others. People with weak immune systems have to be careful about their social interactions for their own protection. But, God doesn’t want us to feel alone. When we are separated from our community — by sickness or sin — God reaches out to us, inviting us to be whole and to not be alone.
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.
I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
For the ancient people, physical sickness was a sign of sinfulness. Jesus went out of his way to discredit that teaching, and we certainly don’t believe it now. When we look at the first reading; however, we can see a connection about how they both can have an isolating effect. The ancients didn’t understand advanced healthcare, but they knew enough that when things seemed to be contagious, people should be set apart so everyone doesn’t get sick. When someone got better, they’d have to be examined by the priest before they were let back into the community — for everyone’s protection. Sin can be somewhat infectious as well — and it certainly does isolate us from one another. Not that we should become hermits because we’re sinners, but we should consider how our sin can infect and harm those around us. We call that the “communal nature of sin.”
Paul tells us that we should imitate Christ in order to make sure that our actions are right. Our souls are healthy when we refrain from sin and can be fully integrated within our community, meeting everyone’s needs and doing “everything for the glory of God.” If everything we’re doing is for God’s glory, sin can’t be among our actions.
The leper who approaches Jesus knows the isolating nature of sickness. Even if we’re surrounded by people, the personal pain, fear, doubt, fatigue — sometimes misplaced shame — all of those feelings can only be felt by the one who is sick. No words can make anyone else understand how we’re feeling. The leper sort of challenges Jesus to see what he will do — “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus does wish, and the man is restored. Jesus had him go to the priest because it’s the right Jewish thing to do, but also to fully restore him to his community. Sometimes physical healing happens for us — and sometimes the healing we find is spiritual or emotional. Whatever healing we long for in our lives, we need to know that Jesus is “moved with pity” for us, and in whatever state we find ourselves, we can still make our actions “for the glory of God.”
What’s the worst part about being sick? What makes you feel better? What can you do for someone who is sick?
What illness (mental, physical, emotional) isolates you from being fully engaged in your community (family, school, work, parish)? What sin isolates you (this question is more for silent reflection, journaling, or confession)? How can putting your focus on doing everything for the glory of God help you to find healing?
Have you ever been a caregiver to one who is ill? Where do you find Jesus’ presence in your service, and how are you Jesus’ presence to the one you care for?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
On this World Day of the Sick, think of a person or group of people who might be isolated or feel alienated because of sickness, immobility or whatever. What can you do as a family to bring Jesus’ healing power to them?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”