Central idea: Christ is our model of kindness. Doctrine: The virtue of kindness. Practical application: Growing in kindness.
Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
To view Lectionary 77, click here.
Central idea: Christ is our model of kindness
Reading 1 Lv 13:1-2, 44-46
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
“If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
which appears to be the sore of leprosy,
he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest,
or to one of the priests among his descendants.
If the man is leprous and unclean,
the priest shall declare him unclean
by reason of the sore on his head.
“The one who bears the sore of leprosy
shall keep his garments rent and his head bare,
and shall muffle his beard;
he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”
- The Mosaic Law contained public health regulations, including isolating those with incurable infectious diseases.
- A leper was triply unfortunate: he suffered from the disfiguring disease, was forced to live apart outside the community, and perhaps believed he was in some way cursed by God. It is hard to know which ill would be harder to bear alone, but the leper bore all three at once.
- The leper was required to confess his condition by his dress and grooming and by warning anyone who came near that he was “unclean.”
Responsorial Psalm Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11
R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart.
- Sin is a leprosy of the soul, which disfigures it and makes a person “unclean.” However, for the Chosen People in covenant with God, the just or the upright of heart are not perfect and sinless souls. They are those who admit their sins before God.
- The upright cry out in their hearts “Unclean, unclean!” This confession of sin brings joy because God forgives the sin.
- The problem is for those “in whose spirit there is . . . guile,” that is, persons who pretend to be good but are not, or persons who pretend to be sorry but have no intention of amending their lives.
- Followers of Christ can completely identify with this psalm. “In response to our fears and anxieties, the Church insists that to promise love in the manner of the covenant is not a hypothetical for mythical saints who are perfect, but a real and possible commitment for actual sinners who are on the way” (Love is Our Mission59). We are in the New Covenant: God promises us salvation and sanctification and we promise to love God and one another as Christ has loved us. We are “actual sinners who are on the way” to the fulfillment of the covenant promises.
Reading 2 1 Cor 10:31—11:1
Brothers and sisters,
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.
Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or
the church of God,
just as I try to please everyone in every way,
not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,
that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
- In telling the Corinthians “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” St. Paul claims he knows what Christ is like. What, then, does Paul say Christ is like?
- Christ acts for the glory of the Father, not self-glorification. He acts to please the Father and to reveal what God is really like to everyone.
- Christ does not deliberately offend anyone.
- Quite the contrary, he tries to please or benefit everyone.
- Christ wants everyone to be saved and acts for that aim, not to benefit himself.
Gospel Mk 1:40-45
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
- We got some idea above how hard it would be to be a leper.
- Jesus heals the leper and reminds him “sternly” what he must do to be accepted back into Jewish life.
- Why did Jesus heal the man? Clearly, it was out of pity.
- In an exquisite display of charity, not only did Christ heal him, he healed him by touching him, certainly the first time anyone had touched him skin to skin since it was known he was infected.
- Christ did not heal him for fame, as he sternly ordered him to “tell no one anything.”
- I think we can conclude that a great deal of the good that Our Lord did during his public life was done because it was good in itself, not to advance his larger mission.
- This coincides with Our Lord’s advice to his disciples on almsgiving: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:3-4).
Doctrine: The virtue of kindness
- Kindness is doing good to another and for the other in a good manner. Christ healing the man with leprosy by touching him was kind.
- Doing good to another not for the other but for one’s self is not kindness but some manner of manipulation, as in flattery, bribery, or creating an obligation.
- The manner in which the good is done can mar the act, as in if someone asks you for a favor and you do it but angrily.
- Sometimes a truly kind act may not seem to be done in a good manner, but it is the best manner objectively or at least the best one can come up with, as in the mother who has to cause her scared child pain to remove a splinter.
- Kind is closely related to kin. When we are kind to others we treat them the way we should treat our own family. Our closest kin is ourself, so kindness is treating others with the goodness with which we treat ourself and in the way we want everyone to treat us.
- The opposite of kindness is cruelty, which is causing pain or suffering in another, especially deliberately. Indifference is another vice related to kindness. It is ignoring the good one could do for another who needs it.
- Cunning persons might use kindness as a weapon to get an upper hand over a victim. A person in a subservient position might use kindness as a strategy to gain favor.
- Kindness is especially praiseworthy when practiced by a person in a superior position toward a person in an inferior position, as a parent to a child, a boss to an employee, a caregiver to the one given care, a rich person to a poor person, a captor to a captive.
- Every culture that has ever existed has believed in kindness, as least for kin.
- Kindness is the preeminent virtue that Christ himself displayed. The object of his kindness was and is everyone.
- For this reason, we Christians are called to act kindly to everyone we meet, especially those closest to us.
- Kindness must be guided by truth. It is not kind to confirm people in their wrong-doing, although sometimes it is appropriate to keep silent. When circumstances call for telling someone the truth, including correcting him or her, our kindness may make the other angry and elicit fury.
- Currently, Christians and others who uphold that marriage can only be between a man and a woman and that certain sexual acts are disordered are called “haters.”
- On the negative side of kindness—what not to do—St. Paul said, “Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God,” that is, don’t deliberately offend anyone. On the positive side of kindness—what to do—he says, “try to please everyone in every way,” of course without pandering to them. Then St. Paul underlines the object of kindness: “not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,” that is, the others. Then he identifies the highest motive for kindness, that the many “may be saved.”
Practical Application: Growing in kindness
- To grow in kindness, you have to know yourself, which is not easy. When you considered the various facets of kindness or unkindness did it hurt to hear some of them? That can tell you something. Is there something in your words or demeanor that often offends others? Do you tend toward indifference to others? What about selfishness? Do you have a streak of cruelty? The prayer of the blind man, “that I may see” (Mk 10:51), is appropriate to know oneself.
- We grow in kindness by doing kind acts. Kindness begins at home, so the first beneficiaries of our kindness should be family members, and it can begin with the tiniest acts, like passing the salt. The basic principle is to notice or ask what someone might want or need, and then quietly supply it. Courtesy and thoughtfulness are great aids in acting kindly. So is a spirit of service and humility.
- When it comes to our work—and I include work in the family—kindness is really an art. How a mother is kind to her baby will be different than how she will be kind to her teenage son. Both will be different than how a dentist is kind to his patient. How a prison guard is kind to the inmate he watches will be different still. But St. Paul’s advice holds: Don’t offend; try to please; do it for the other.
- A great resource is “The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time” by Divine Word Missionary Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik.