Because I am a "contrary old man" - Barbara would probably say "always" - I will again go contrary to the teachers of preachers and bring some humor before entering the Homily on the Readings. These are actual quotes from either real people or are sayings which have become part of our culture.
1. Henny Youngman - "I've got all the money I'll ever need if I die by 4 o'clock."
2. Mark Twain - "Name the mother of all inventions. Accident."
3. Alfred North Whitehead - "There is always more chance of hitting upon something valuable when you aren't too sure what you want to hit upon."
4. John Morley - "Three things matter in a speech: who says it, how he says it, and what he says - and of the three, the last matters the least."
5. A saying - "The decision is maybe and that's final."
6. A saying - "A budget is the way to go broke methodically."
7. A saying - "Conscience is the little voice that tells you you shouldn't have done it after you did."
Several themes are present in today's Readings, and more clearly in the full context from which the Readings are taken. One theme is how God cares for His People. He chooses the priests of the Old Testament to determine under strict guidelines if people have or do not have leprosy. Another theme is the possibility of being caught up in the worship of idols or being tempted by the "Devil" to pull away from the "One True God", and not to be able to "partake" of the blood of Christ or the body of Christ. And a final theme is that we who "drink the cup of blessing which we bless", participate in the blood of Christ. And we who "break the bread" participate in the body of Christ. And since the "loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf."
The first theme - found in the Book of Leviticus and the Gospel of Mark - the role assigned by God to the priests in the Old Testament in determining who had or did not have leprosy. Leprosy was a very contagious disease which was not able to be treated until the late 1930s when medicines to cure it were discovered. Because there were little or no doctors at the foundation of the Jewish people around the time of Moses and Aaron (that is, shortly after the Jewish people escaped from Egypt) the task of determining whether or not a person had leprosy or not was assigned to Aaron and his descendants as priests. The whole of Chapter 13 of the Book of Leviticus give detailed instructions on how to determine whether a skin disease was leprosy or not. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus follows the law set out in the Book of Leviticus by sending lepers He had cured to the priests to be examined.
It was God's way of dealing with a disease when there were few, if any, doctors, little medical treatments and few medicines. To us, in the twenty-first century, this seems rather crude. But a real lesson is that God deals with us, as we are in a certain day and age. In Leviticus, God does not suddenly deal with leprosy by giving doctors, medical knowledge, treatment facilities and medicines. The real lesson is that we must be aware that God will speak to us in our own times. We must be open to God Who made us to live in the twenty-first century and accept the modern ways He asks us to. In short, we must not cling to the past; but be open to change as God will direct us to.
The second theme is found in the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. Paul concerns himself with a problem of idolatry (worshiping false gods) and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ at the "Sacred Meal" or the "Eucharist".
The first question we need to answer today is whether there is any worshiping of false gods in our times. Related to this is whether there is a "Devil" leading us away from the True God. So I am going to ask you two questions:
Are there false "idols" or false gods at this time? If so, what are they?
(Some answers might be money, greed, lack of well-formed consciences, sexual promiscuity or freedom, etc.)
Is there at the present time a "real Devil" or devils who push us to doing evil deeds contrary to our consciences? Or was this only a way to explain why we seem inclined often to do what we know is wrong?
Present day "idols" and a real "Devil" do exist though not often in the form which Jesus and Paul dealt with. Anything which leads us away from the One True God is some form of "idol" or a temptation by a real, personal "Devil". "I AM THE ONE TRUE GOD; YOU SHALL NOT HAVE OTHER GODS BUT ME!!!
Paul gives us the choice. If we partake of the "table of demons", we cannot "partake of the cup of the Lord". If we drink of the "cup of demons", we "cannot partake of the "table of the Lord". Paul means the Eucharist which we are about to celebrate in a short time. He continues "for the "cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
Paul then concludes that "whether we eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God."
Paul is here in First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians teaching the early Christians how to keep God first in everything. He further states that "God is faithful and will not let (them) be tried beyond our strength." When we get too caught up in today's "idols" which are offered or pressed upon us in our twenty-first century, we can find ourselves putting "God on the back burner". But "God is (still) faithful and will not let (us) \be tried beyond our strength."
Paul in another letter advises the early Christians to "live life moderately". If we "live life moderately, we will find ourselves putting God where He should be. "I AM THE ONE TRUE GOD; YOU SHALL NOT HAVE OTHER GODS BUT ME!!!