Friday, June 25, 2010

You can make me clean...

“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”

If we place ourselves in the gospel passage from today, we see that this incredible act of faith is not just a statement on the part of a leper but is a genuine plea for help. In the Jewish culture, leprosy wasn’t just a disease that affected the skin; it affected one’s whole life. They were social outcasts because nobody went near them. But more importantly, they were religious outcasts. Because they were unclean, they were not able to enter into the Temple area to offer praise and sacrifice like everyone else. Instead they were confined to certain areas and restricted highly so as not to ‘infect’ others with this uncleanness. One’s relationship with God cannot survive long under such circumstances.

When Jesus says those words “I will do it. Be made clean,” He not only cleanses the man of the leprosy but also sets him right with God. He renews that life of faith that was slowly dying in the man.

In this miracle, we see the power of Jesus in healing the body but we also see a foreshadowing of the sacrament of penance or confession. The leper, recognizing the state that he is in and desiring to be set free, humbles himself and places himself before Jesus in faith that he will be cleansed of what has separated him from God.

All of us sin. As much as we’d like to avoid it and as hard as we might try, we all sin. Maybe we said something mean or untrue about someone, or act out of pride or greed, or maybe we just have trouble forgiving that person who hurt us in the past. All of these – and surely many others – can be little walls built up between us and the love of God; walls which keep us more and more confined to ourselves. But thanks be to God that we have a sacrament that tears down those walls and reconciles us to God, as well as to our neighbors. But in order for Him to do that, we must first humble ourselves and come before Him to ask for that cleansing, trusting that He does will that we be made clean.