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)
The faith and the trust that the leper in today’s Gospel has is more than impressive, it is exemplary.
Once again, we are confronted with another person stepping forward to Jesus in confidence that he is there for them.
It’s a curiosity that with all that we know about Jesus Christ, we still find it difficult to turn our lives over to him. Americans, in particular, have a difficult time submitting to Christ. Perhaps it’s part of the culture, part of the ethos that dwells on personal liberties. Yet, the Christian faith is based on humility, on trust, on finding ways to draw closer to Christ, to be part of Christ in the world.
We don’t do that alone. We do it within our faith communities. We do when we are with those we love. We simply strive to be better followers of the way. Most of all, we do it with God.
Think about this.
God’s desire to cleanse us, to make us pure, to fill us with his mercy to overflowing, explains the motivation behind Jesus’ incarnation, his hidden life, his passion, death and resurrection.
Jesus’ whole life screams the ardor of God’s hunger to make us clean, to heal us of our words and the leprosy of sin that alienates us from God, others and our truest selves.
God never leaves us. Even in our darkest hours, he is there. He stands by us and quietly touches our lives. Sometimes we feel it. Sometimes we wonder.
But drawing closer to God is a never-ending process. I have always loved Isaiah’s image of God as the potter.
The image of course is that of a potter molding clay on a potters’ wheel, shaping and re-shaping the clay to achieve what the potter desires. He first lays the base, then builds up the walls, then turns the lip.
Isaiah’s image tells us that just as that potter molds the clay, God is molding us. God is forming us by the work of God’s hands. Now notice Isaiah does not say that God is the potter and we are the pot. The pot is the finished project. We are not the pot; we are the clay. We are the work in progress, the work that is shaped and reshaped by God’s love. None of us are finished.
But we must be pliable clay. We must want our lives to be better. We must want to live the way of the Beatitudes. We must be open to God’s will for our lives.
Coming off this past year, that may seem it even more difficult. Most of us are still numb with how our lives were changed by the pandemic. Some of us may still be fearful of what the future holds. But today we can turn the page.
Today’s words of Jesus should be imprinted upon our hearts. “I will do it. Be made clean.”
Made clean. Made whole. Made one in the image of Christ. Isn’t that what a
Then why do we make it seem so difficult? It’s a question of first being humble before God. Knowing that it’s not our will but his which will prevail. Then it’s a question of trust. By placing ourselves in front of him, we rest comfortably in our trust of God.
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.
That’s our hope. That’s our desire. It begins when we say: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”
Say that now. Say it during your morning and evening prayer. Say it and believe. If you do, it will be.
Prayer of The Day
May the power of your love, Lord Christ, fiery and sweet as honey, so absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven. Grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love, as you died for love of our love.” (Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi,1181-1226 AD)
“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” We can say the same, with similar adoration and trust: “Lord, if you will, you can cleanse me of all of the ways I’ve lived by the standards of the world rather than by yours. If you will, you can give me the help you know I need to become teleios, to become great by keeping and teaching your commandments, to seek first your kingdom, and to base my whole life on the rock of your holy word!” And we have every confidence Jesus will respond like he did to the leper, to all the others who approached him through other scenes in the Gospel, and say, “I do will it! Be made clean!” After hearing God’s wisdom at length, now we encounter God’s healing power to strengthen us to live up to the high standards of ordinary Christian living to which Jesus calls us.