It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately. Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray. (Luke 5:12-16)
The leper, in today’s scripture, did something quite remarkable. He approached Jesus confidently and humbly, expecting that Jesus could and would heal him. 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.
This is the Jesus we’re called to imitate. The Lord turns to each of us today and says, “Come, follow me!” We’re not called, necessarily, to imitate Jesus in caring for those with Hansen’s disease, because, thanks be to God, leprosy has been eradicated in the United States and in most of the world.
Most of us — as far as I know — are not gifted with the Lord’s divine power to work stupendous miracles of healing, so we’re not called to imitate Christ the healer. But what Christ is calling us to do is to love the outcasts with the same love that he does, the love which would make him go to the Cross again for them if he needed to. And to do this, we need courage!
This is the courage that St. John describes as flowing from believing that Jesus is the Son of God, the faith that makes us through, with and in him, a victor over the world, a champion over fear, a winner over the hardness of heart that can lead us to turn away from others rather than turn toward them with Christ-like love.
Christ wants us to love with a special predilection the many other types of lepers today, all those who are modern outcasts. those who think that their sins cannot be forgiven; the economic lepers like the homeless and the very poor, the racial lepers like the gypsies or, depending upon where one lives, those of a particular skin color, be it black, or brown, or yellow; and the emotional lepers, those who, because of their own psyche or others’ actions, feel completely alone and abandoned.
These are among the ones Jesus wants us to reach out and heal through our very human touch, to bring back from the margins into communion with us and with him.
Christ knows our hearts. He knows our fears. He knows our weaknesses. He knows our longings. His first apostles were good men, but all of them had fears and all of them abandoned him in the Garden and eleven of the twelve were still fugitives as he was dying. But their failures led them to turn to him anew and the power of the Holy Spirit coming down on Pentecost, and the Spirit’s gift of Courage, emboldened them.
For us, knowing our frailties, we need to approach him like the leper in today’s Gospel and simply say to him, with trusting faith, “Lord, if you will it, you can make me bold!”
And we know that Jesus will never give us a stone when we ask for bread, or a poisonous eel when we ask for a fish. He will say, we can be absolutely sure, “I do will it. Be made strong!” And he will, in giving us that grace, give us plenty of opportunities to put that gift of courage into action despite our fears. He will say to each of us, “Do not be afraid. It is I. Take Courage. I have conquered the world!”
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with your love and make me clean and whole in body, mind, and spirit. May I never doubt your love nor cease to tell others of your mercy and compassion.”
How do you approach those who seem difficult to love, or who are shunned by others because they are deformed or have some physical or mental weakness? Do you show them kindness and offer them mercy and help as Jesus did? The Lord Jesus is always ready to show us his mercy and to free us from whatever makes us unclean, unapproachable, or unloving.