He Will Heal Us
Gospel Reflection for Thursday, January 11
40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down said to him: If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
41 And Jesus having compassion on him, stretched forth his hand; and touching him, saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean. 42 And when he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was made clean. 43 And he strictly charged him, and forthwith sent him away. 44 And he saith to him: See thou tell no one; but go, shew thyself to the high priest, and offer for thy cleansing the things that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them. 45 But he being gone out, began to publish and to blaze abroad the word: so that he could not openly go into the city, but was without in desert places: and they flocked to him from all sides.
Today’s Gospel is an interesting contrast from today’s other mass readings. The first tells us of when Israel was defeated by the Philistines and even the Ark of the Covenant was captured. The Psalm also describes a defeated Israel in great distress. In both passages, the message is one of asking why God let calamity come upon His people. The answer in each is that the people had fallen away from their covenant with God. These defeats were God’s way of punishing them and calling them to repentance.
Much as I discussed in yesterday’s reflection, sometimes God uses sickness to bring the sinner to repentance and back into communion with Him. These are often very hard lessons. But, God will allow our bodies to suffer in order to save our souls. While this is never pleasant, we should be grateful. Jesus said that God would refine us and chastise us as a father trains his child. He tells us that nothing impure can enter Heaven. It should be our hope that we may do penance for our sins in this life, offering up our sufferings to God, so we may spend less time in purgatory.
In the time of our Lord’s earthy ministry, leprosy was a particularly difficult disease to cure. Its causes were mysterious, but it was known to be very contagious. Lepers were isolated, cut off from friends and family. They lived in very poor conditions and very few, if any, healthy people would dare go near them to tend to their needs. They were also excluded from all religious practices and Temple worship. Leprosy was believed to be a punishment by God for either the sins of the individual or his parents. To be healed of leprosy was miraculous.
In this Gospel, we see the leper approach Jesus boldly. Filled with faith, he knows that our Lord can heal him. He says, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” He has no doubt or hesitation. He cares nothing for what others may think of him. He runs to our Lord knowing that Jesus, alone, can save him. Then, Jesus does something that must have shocked all around him. He reaches out and touches the man. To touch a leper was not merely dangerous in that you may contract the disease, but it also made one ritually unclean under Jewish law. One who did so would have to go through elaborate cleansing ceremonies and then present himself to the officials before he could again enter the Temple and take part in worship. Yet, Jesus not only heals the man but violates the social and religious norms of the day in so doing. Just as he would heal on the Sabbath, he touched an untouchable.
We must ask ourselves, why? Jesus could have healed this man with His words alone. He could have healed him with a silent prayer or merely willed it to be. Was He intentionally showing us that the Law had become a barrier and a hindrance to the love of God and neighbor? Was he so filled with compassion that He needed to express his love the leper that He was moved to touch him, just as he wept for Lazarus? Our, perhaps it was the leper who needed to be touched, to be treated as a human again instead of an outcast. Perhaps those around Jesus needed to see Him touch the man in order to feel comfortable interacting with him.
The Bible does not provide those answers. Very likely, it was all of the above and much more than we can understand. We can be sure of one thing, however, we are all sick spiritually due to our sins… and, Jesus loves us and will heal us in the ways we most need if we have faith in Him and ask. If it is best, He will heal us physically. However, such ailments may be our “crosses to bear.” Recall that Saint Paul complained of an ailment that tormented him. He gave us the example of uniting his suffering to our Lord’s. Spiritual sickness is far more deadly, but our Lord gave us the needed medicine. We can go to Him in the sacrament of Reconciliation, confess our sins. We can pray the Our Father and the many beautiful penitential prays the Church gives us. We can also say simply and with full faith, “Lord, If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, A Daily Catholic Devotional Reflections on the Daily Mass Readings January-June, 2024. It is Available in paperback on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CPD1DC7Q
Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is also Available in paperback on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C47Q1JNK
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic