Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
1st Thursday of Ordinary Time
1 Samuel 4: 1-11; Mark 1: 40-45
“The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent.” Life is a constant challenge. Often we will suffer defeat in the face of temptation and persecution. The trick is not to flee to our own tents. We stand in need of the support of the community and the mercy of God. It is important to keep in mind that God loves us, even in our failings. God loves us, not because we are good, but because we are created by Him and therefore are lovable. Because love is of God, all we do must be in conformity with His will. Mother Theresa used to say: “God does not require us to be successful, He only requires us to be faithful.” The challenge set before us is to trust God, knowing that He trusts us. Even though that does not sound quite right, trust it and act on it.
We are called to love in relationship with the God who made us. The rock of our strength is the Living God, not some creedal formula. God is a person who seeks to establish a personal relationship with each and every one of us. Sometime, like our ancestors in the first reading, we place our trust in rituals and not in the Living God. During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is reminding us of the need to place our trust in God and is inviting us to return our Father’s House. The urgency of this invitation was brought home to me the other day. An individual came to see me because her life was in turmoil. I asked her if she had taken her cares to prayer. Tears filled my eyes when she said that she hadn’t because she was such a hypocrite. The door of mercy is open, hypocrites are welcome to come in!
It is reasonable to say that modern-day hypocrites are the equivalents of the leper in today’s gospel passage, people who feel unclean and marginalized. Like the leper, each of us who is a hypocrite needs to come to the Lord, asking Him to make us clean again. Like the leper in today’s gospel, we need Jesus healing touch. We need Jesus to touch that deepest part of our souls where we feel the most hypocritical. The issue is not whether we deserve some gesture of mercy from the Lord. The truth of the matter is that we need Christ’s mercy. Our neediness speaks to the heart of Christ who is rich in mercy. Pope Francis keeps reminding us that Jesus desires nothing more than to forgive sinners and to remove the effects of sins from our lives. Jesus wants to touch our hearts and to heal them, even if we make Him wait. Let us be open to Christ’s healing embrace.