15 February 2015
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
A leper came to Jesus seeking to be cleansed of his disease. Lepers at that time had the worst disease that could befall a person, for it was a progressive deterioration of the body, which made the leper repulsive to himself and others. Due to the contagious nature of the disease, those infected were banished from the company of men, therefore the pain was not only physical for the poor lepers but they also underwent mental anguish as well.
In this encounter between Jesus and the leper, we see exactly how Jesus confronts mankind. Jesus did not drive away this man who had broken the law. According to the Jewish laws of the time, Jesus was not obliged to speak with a leper and the leper was not allowed to come towards a healthy person. The poor leper approached Jesus, knelt down before him, begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus could have begun a legalistic lecture with the man and refused his request, but he met the man in the desperation of his human need with understanding and compassion. Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” Jesus touched the leper, which was something that was considered taboo at the time. No one would dare touch a leper for fear of contracting the disease, yet to Jesus he was not unclean, but a human soul in desperate need. And upon touching the man, the leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
The encounter between Jesus and the leper is also an example of a good preparation for Lent which we shall begin within a few days. The leper came to Jesus in his misery with the words: If you wish, you can make me clean. He came to Jesus with a sincere desire to be healed along with great faith that Jesus was the one who could heal him. We may not be lepers, but we all have some sins, bad habits, faults of human nature, which make us unclean before God. If we recognize the fact that our hearts, minds and souls can be contaminated by sins and bad habits, then we must go to Christ with the faith of this leper and implore the Lord: you can make me clean, in order to be purified and renewed by God’s mercy in the sacrament of confession.
The Lord’s response to the leper and to each of us is always the same: I do will it. Be made clean. There is nothing more that God wants for us than to be cleansed of our sins, cured of all our evils and healed in the spirit of all disbelief and attachment to sin. And oftentimes, spiritual healing leads to physical healings as well. Let us therefore humbly kneel before God in prayer and meditation, begging him to heal us of all our sinfulness and everything that thwarts us from fulfilling his will in our lives. Upon being touched by God’s grace and renewed, we can then go forward through good-works and sacrifices, to be instruments of his love and mercy in the world.