Recent Gospels have shown Jesus in action. When word spread that the ‘wonder-worker’ was in town, people would bring their relatives and friends seeking a cure. Last Sunday we saw how they crowded around the door of Peter and Andrew’s house. This Sunday a leper approaches Jesus.
Please use your imagination in order to capture the true impact of this scene. First we are given a description of the plight of lepers in the first reading today from 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!’” Imagined having to live this way. Imagined being shunned by people and having to live apart from others including one’s own relatives. It would be impossible to make a living. One would be reduced to begging in order to survive. Try to really put yourself into this man’s situation. Try to feel his anguish and despair. Try to experience living without hope.
In the Gospel today this leper comes to Jesus and kneels down. He is already breaking the laws of his society. He is supposed to stay apart and announce his uncleanliness when he approaches others. He cries out: “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Obviously he has heard about Jesus. Perhaps Jesus had already cured the ten lepers when only one returned and gave thanks. Perhaps someone told him about the wonder-worker.
In an instant his life is completely changed: “I do will it. Be made clean.” Jesus asks the man not to publicize the event but the man cannot contain himself. I think we can forgive the man his exuberance. I cannot imagine his joy. He is now free. He is now whole. He is accepted into society. He can go about freely. He can earn a living.
He is a good example to us of gratitude. There are many things we take for granted in life. In the midst of complaining about ice and snow, we can be blind to the blessings before us.
February 18th we begin the season of Lent. Lent is an opportunity to take notice of the blessings in our lives and to live gratitude. Lent is not about self-improvement. It is not about looking good before others. It is not about proving we can give something up. Lent is about appreciating what God is doing for us in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.
Please decide now what you will do this Lent in order to draw closer to Christ. Let gratitude be your guide. Feel the anguish and isolation of the leper in your own spirit and cry out to Jesus: “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus will make you clean if you but recognize where you need cleansing and then call upon Him, recognizing that indeed there is a God and you are not he.
May the Lord give you peace.
Rev. James M. McNamara