Fr. Alex Vitualla, SVD, our rector and parish priest; Reverend Fathers and Brothers of the Society of the Divine Word; dear brother priests; beloved parishioners and devotees of St. Jude; brothers and sisters in Christ.
Xin niankuae le. Kong hei fa choi. Happy New Year.
It is my joy to be with you today as we celebrate the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time and the Lunar New Year or the Chinese New Year. This occasion calls families to gather and to express gratitude for all the blessings that they have received. My presence here is a manifestation of my earnest desire to be with your community, especially with our Filipino-Chinese families.
Allow me first to share this beautiful message from Pope Francis, “Today, in Asia and other parts of the world, millions of families are celebrating the lunar new year. I send them my heartfelt greetings in the hope that this feast may be an opportunity to foster loving relationships and acts of care to build a fraternal society.”
Indeed, this is a time for us to promote loving relationships in our homes and fraternal respect in our society. Our readings for today point us to the painful reality of discrimination and social exclusion in human communities. The book of Leviticus describes the process of diagnosis and penalty for leprosy. The person who is confirmed to be afflicted with this disease will live outside the community and will declare himself unclean. As long as the sore or symptoms are in the person, he will not be allowed to go back. Leprosy is not just a physical sickness. It is a social and psychological torture.
St. Paul in the second reading counsels the church of Corinth to avoid giving offense to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God. As much as possible, the Christians must please everyone in every way, not to seek their own benefit but that of the many. St. Paul, in other words, wants the Corinthians to promote a community spirit and not suspicion or hostility.
The encounter between Jesus and the leper in our Gospel from St. Mark is a powerful example to us of mercy and courageous acceptance that led to healing and restoration. The leper came to Jesus kneeling and begging, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Behind this statement is the feeling of extreme loneliness and frustration. The leper knew that this is his last chance. He is begging Jesus to rescue him, to take him out of his suffering. What Jesus did surprised everyone because it was unthinkable at that time. He touched the leper. He did not only talk to him from a distance. He stretched out His hand and touched him.
Brothers and sisters, on this day of family reunions and honoring of your ancestors, Jesus is once again stretching out His hand to all of us. He wants to heal our wounds of division. He wants to touch our leprosy of indifference and apathy so that we can be made as one again. You may have heard of the word synodality, a word which means walking together or journeying together. I encourage your parish community to seriously consider this direction that Pope Francis has initiated in the universal Church.
Let us become a synodal Church in mission. Let us walk and work together so that the mission of telling the world of His love may be vigorously pursued. Your parish here in St. Jude has a great role to play in showing other parishes how to be synodal, and how to live out the Trinitarian principle of unity in diversity. I would like to challenge the Filipino-Chinese community to actively promote a culture of integration and inclusion, a culture of synodality and collaboration. Our world today needs more workers for peace and communion, architects and artisans of dialogue and mutual listening. Let us heal the world one act of love at a time, one touch of kindness at a time.
Once again, Happy New Year. Xin niankuae le.
May the Lord bless you with the abundance of His grace as we usher in the New Year. Amen. (Photo by Kyler Bernardo/RCAM-AOC | Photogallery)