When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” His leprosy was cleansed immediately. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” (Matthew 8:1-4)
Normally a leper would be stoned or at least warded off if he tried to come near a rabbi. Jesus not only grants the man his request, but he demonstrates the personal love, compassion, and tenderness of God in his physical touch. The medical knowledge of his day would have regarded such contact as grave risk for incurring infection. Jesus met the man’s misery with compassion and tender kindness. He communicated the love and mercy of God in a sign that spoke more eloquently than words. He touched the man and made him clean — not only physically but spiritually as well.
By cleansing the leper, He restored this man’s entire life to him. He was living as an outcast, separated from the community; his leprosy, in a sense, took everything from him. But he had faith in Jesus and presented himself to the care and mercy of God. The result was that he was made whole and restored to full health.
Jesus often would tell those who were healed to tell no one. One reason for this was that Jesus’ acts of love and mercy were not done for His own benefit, rather, they were done out of love. Jesus loved this leper and wanted to offer Him this precious gift of healing.
The parallel to our lives is joyfully obvious. Jesus healed the leper out of compassion and, in return, only wanted the man’s gratitude. He did not need to make this a public spectacle.
The same is true with us. We need to know that God loves us so much that He wants to lift our heavy burdens and heal our weaknesses simply because He loves us. He doesn’t do it first because it will benefit Him, rather, He does it out of love for us.
The very nature of an act of love and compassion is such that it should be done simply out of love. In fact, doing something loving and compassionate that is not noticed by anyone helps us grow in love and compassion. It purifies our intentions and enables us to love for love’s sake.
His love is simply more powerful than any person’s sin, no matter how grave. He is not afraid to be associated with sinners or to touch lepers. It was this same love that moved the Word to become “flesh and dwell among us” (John 1:14). By taking our human nature to himself he “stretched out his hand and touched us.” When we give Jesus our sins he nails them to the cross — and it is precisely at the cross that we discover two things: the true nature of our sin and the infinite love the prompts Jesus to touch us.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, may I grow in love of others and express that love in a pure way. May I never be motivated by a desire for vain praise. Jesus, I trust in You.”
Sin knocks at the door of our lives, but thanks to Jesus we do not have to continue in it. When Jesus heals us, he also gives us the strength (grace) to stay healthy. He heals us so that we may freely walk with him and imitate him in our lives. But do I want to leave aside all my sin? What former leper would ever wish to return to his leprosy? Ultimately it is the heart that must be made clean by way of constant prayer, the sacraments and a genuine effort to do what we know is pleasing to God.