The 12th Friday in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 17: 1, 9-10, 15-22, Matthew 8: 1-4)
“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” (Mat. 8:2). I know many people who have tragic histories. Some had their innocence stolen from them at an early age. Others were brutalized by their parents. Some fell victim to drug or alcohol abuse. Some have been prostitutes. The burden of guilt and shame they bear renders them dirty and untouchable. The ancient cry of “unclean, unclean” has been replaced by obnoxious, antisocial behavior that results in various degrees of alienation from society. In his/her mind, every breath exhaled wreaks and everything they touch is contaminated. They can readily identify with Juliet’s expression of despair. “Come weep with me, past hope, past cure, past help!”
In his estimation, he is unfit to associate with his fellows and damned in the sight of God. However, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (CF. Is. 55:8). When he looks upon us in all our distress, “he is moved to compassion” (Mat. 9:36). The Lord sets his gaze upon us and draws us to himself with bonds of love. Looking beyond our guilt and shame, God sees beloved children who were meant to live life to the full. Concerning the sin-sick heart, the Lord says, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, those who are sick do” (Mat. 9:12). Paraphrasing a passage from St. Luke’s gospel, “I have come to seek and save the sick” (CF. Lk. 19:10).
We are being encouraged to make the leper’s plea our own. “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” (Mat. 8:2). Allow me to provide Jesus’s reply by rewriting a passage from St. John’s gospel. “If you really want to know, I was born and came into the world to make you clean” (CF. Jn. 18:37). It is when we are feeling the most isolated and dirty that we need to ponder the passage from Isaiah that Jesus used when he inaugurated his ministry. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to announce the good news to the oppressed poor. He sent me to apply a healing balm upon the brokenhearted, to declare liberty to captives, and pardon to those in bondage” (Is. 61:1).
Because of God’s boundless love for the human race, “The almighty Word leapt down from Heaven from his royal throne, as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction” (CF Wis. 18:15). Having surveyed the human condition (CF. Ps. 14:2), the Word became Flesh and took the alienation and isolation of all mankind upon himself. Jesus loves us with a love that far surpasses all we could ever hope for or imagine. May we never hesitate to come to Jesus for healing. There is no guilt so great that it cannot be forgiven by Christ’s saving death and resurrection. There is no shame so deep that it cannot be wiped out by Christ’s compassionate love. May the words of Jesus recounted in today’s gospel passage be imprinted upon our hearts. “I will do it. Be made clean.”
I will leave you with a few inspirational words from Pope Francis. “Jesus’s gaze always uplifts us, it raises us. His is a gaze that makes you develop and keep on going, that encourages you because it makes you feel that he loves you. And by making you feel his love, he gives you the courage you need to follow him. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are recreated, we become a new creation.”