Sunday Sermon for February 11, 2024, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Lev 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mk 1:40-45

In the second reading today, St. Paul instructs us to be imitators of him as he is an imitator of Christ.  One might naturally ask why we wouldn’t just imitate the Lord.  I think St. Paul is telling the people that they saw the way he lived when he was among them.  If his actions and dispositions mirrored those of our Lord, then by striving to be like St. Paul, the people would become like Jesus.

Today, we have the benefit of both.  At the time St. Paul was writing to the Corinthians, there was no New Testament; even some of the Gospels were not yet written.  Certainly, St. Paul was teaching the people about Jesus, what He did, and how He lived, but the example of what Christian life should look like was modeled to them by St. Paul and his companions.

Sometimes, when we think of trying to imitate our Lord, we might think it is impossible because He lived a perfect life while we are anything but perfect.  When we look at someone like St. Paul, or so many of the Saints, we find that their lives may be more accessible to us.  We see in them some of the same vices with which we struggle, we see the efforts they had to make to grow in virtue, we can take hope in their failings and imperfections.

Regardless of who among the holy ones we are striving to emulate, it all comes down to the same thing: we want to be like Jesus.  We see two points in this brief reading that highlight this goal.  First, St. Paul tells us that no matter what we do, we should be doing everything for the glory of God.  Second, St. Paul instructs us that we should avoid offending others in our interactions with them by trying to seek what will benefit them and not what benefits us.

This gives us a very clear summary of the way our Lord lived His human life.  Everything was done for love of God and neighbor.  He did not do anything offensive, yet many people took offense at Him.  The same will happen with anyone striving to live a holy life.  Those who do not want to live a virtuous life will feign offense simply because a saint is censure to the conscience of the sinner.  Even when one is far from being a saint, people are bothered by the mere presence of someone who represents the Lord.

Our Lady would certainly have experienced this in her life.  It would not be possible to meet a sweeter, kinder, or more humble person, yet she would have been rejected by most people.  Her focus on God would have made many people uncomfortable, and she was probably the subject of a lot of gossip. 

When we hear these things and then consider the lives of the saints, we begin to understand some of the suffering they endured.  They were different than many of the people around them and persecuted by those who chose not to change their lives and become like the saint.  Of course, God uses such occasions to help the saint to become even more holy. 

The downside of this reality is that some people may not want to grow in holiness if this is what happens.  We must remember that God wants each of us to become saints.  The fact that so few are willing to work at becoming a saint is a tragedy.  Unfortunately, most of us just want to fit in with everyone else.  Well, what would happen if all of us decided to become saints, then we can all fit in together?  There will always be those who will not accept God’s will for them to be saints, but perhaps if the majority, or even a sizeable number of people, were truly striving for sanctity, it would influence others to change their lives for the better.

If we are willing to work toward becoming saints, we need to know what will be necessary.  Ultimately, what is necessary is to love God and to love neighbor selflessly.  We know our Lord did nothing for His own benefit, but we can see His charity particularly in the Gospel.  He healed a leper, but afterward, He was no longer able to enter a town openly and had to stay in deserted places.  As we see in the first reading, this is the plight of the leper.

Our Lord’s charity in healing the leper allowed the man to re-enter society and forced Jesus out of society.  Although there was a cost, sometime severe, Jesus kept doing good for others.  He did nothing for His own benefit, but for the benefit of the many.  As imitators of Christ, we must do the same.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit