By Father Alonzo Cox
As a kid growing up, my parents instilled in me that all I needed to do to be happy and successful was to be myself. I could remember early in my life, especially in school, times in which I needed to be something else or “imitate” someone else to get attention, prestige or acclamations.
Watching all of my friends and classmates made me wonder if I needed to be more like them to get ahead whether it was in academics, sports or social life. There were a number of celebrities that I looked up to and wondered, do I need to act like them to be a celebrity one day?
Struggling with this concept for a while, I went to someone I truly believed could help me, my grandmother. Paying her a visit after school one day, I told her outright that I thought I needed to change my image and my persona so that I could be more visible to my friends and classmates because being myself didn’t seem to be working. She sat me down and said to me, “You don’t need to be yourself, just be like Jesus and you’ll be OK.”
I never forgot those words. Just be like Jesus and you’ll be OK. I am reminded of her today as we reflect upon our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Paul tells us that we must be imitators of Christ Jesus. There are so many times in our lives that we can get caught up in our own selves. We are taught that we have an image that must be portrayed for everyone to see. How many times have we acted in a way that brought us prestige, honor and accolades, all at the expense of doing harm to our brothers and sisters or questioning our conscience?
Ultimately, the only image we want to have portrayed is that of Christ the Lord. As disciples of the Lord, each of us are called to live our lives in the image and likeness of Him, who is the example of joy, happiness and holiness. We need not take on any other image but that of Jesus.
We hear in today’s gospel of Jesus curing the man with leprosy. After healing him, the Lord says 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.”
But what does the man do instead, he goes out and tells everyone of what Jesus had done for him. His life was radically transformed and his image was now changed to be that of Christ the Lord. The Lord calls us each day to grow deeper and deeper to live in his image and likeness.
We must not allow any other distraction, particularly the distraction of our own selves or of our wants and desires to get in the way of allowing Christ to work in and through us. All that we do must be for the honor and glory of God, not our own. Jesus knew that as he healed this man of leprosy. Jesus changed the lives of everyone he encountered throughout his ministry.
We too can change the lives of those we encounter daily by allowing Christ to be at the center of our lives. May the Holy Spirit strengthen us to be imitators of Christ in all that we say and do. Ultimately, if we all act like Jesus we will be OK.
Readings for Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11
1 Corinthians 10:31—11:1
Father Cox is the pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant and coordinator for the vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns for the Diocese of Brooklyn.