July 23, 2018, 3:24 am
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‘If you wish, you can make me clean’

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.

***

This Sunday’s Gospel recounts the Lord’s healing of a leaper whose skin ailment is one referred to in the First Reading in the book of Leviticus. “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.”

Leprosy frightened people in ancient times, just as contagious and mysterious diseases frighten people today. But, more than this, leprosy rendered someone unclean and therefore incapable of engaging in the act of worship. It is not accidental that the person responsible for examining the patient in ancient Israel was the priest. The priest’s job was to monitor the whole process of Israelite worship, very much including who could and couldn’t participate in the Temple.

What is so important about worship? To worship is to order the whole of one’s life toward the living God, and, in doing so, to become interiorly and exteriorly rightly ordered. To worship is to signal to oneself what one’s life is finally about. Worship is not something that God needs, but it is very much something that we need.

When Jesus healed the leprous person, he allowed the man to be totally ordered in all of his relationships. Jesus’ healing touch reincorporates the leper who has been ostracized; his loving embrace re-associates him who has been alienated. In other words, from being civilly dead, the leper was brought back to life.

In the reign of God there are no outsiders. All belong to Jesus, and therefore, all belong to each other. Those who have been shunned because of some physical condition or social status have been brought back into the community, and the community is made whole again. The one afflicted belongs to the community; and the community is now an authentic manifestation of the inclusive reign of God.

As a way of internalizing this message of the Gospel, the Responsorial Psalm offers a mantra to be recited in one’s consciousness: “I turn to you, Lord in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.”

This is a timely and perennial call to prayer because while not all of us are afflicted with leprosy, surely there are many unhealthy areas in our lives, in our communities, and in society that need healing. In the “Lord Heal Our Lord Sunday” held on the last Sunday of October 2017 it was sounded loud and clear from the CBCP that we need to wake up to the growing culture of death and violence. A quote from Bro. Jose Marie Jimenez, FSC, in his letter to La Sallians states:

“In our communities where there are suspected drug addicts or pushers, we have witnessed how those who are nameless and powerless and poor are murdered and their families silenced by fear… In social media, where bashing and name-calling have become a sport, we have witnessed how we have been deprived of the truth and how we are being divided along the lines of our political affiliations rather than by our love of country. In the conduct of our government’s affairs, where those who perform the role of fiscalizers are threatened with impeachment or imprisonment, we are witness to the weakening of the structures of governance.”

May the Gospel message open us to the healing power of the Lord!

***

– Fr. Jesus M. Malit, SSS
– (Feb. 11, 2018)
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