Friday, June 30, 2017

"LORD, I AM NOT WORTHY."


Homily for June 30th, 2017: Matthew 8:1-4.

          People afflicted with leprosy in Jesus’ day suffered not only physically but socially and spiritually, as well. Because the disease was considered highly contagious, they were banned from public places. And since they were considered spiritually unclean they could not participate in Temple worship. Anyone who touched a leper became spiritually unclean as well.

          This helps us understand why the man we have just heard about in the gospel reading is prefaces his plea for healing by doing homage to Jesus. “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean, he pleads.”  The man’s faith in Jesus’ power to heal is crucial. It is faith that opens the door for God’s action in our lives.

          Out of compassion with this social outcast Jesus responds at once. Reaching out across the boundary between clean and unclean, Jesus touches the man, saying: “I will do it. Be made clean.” Jesus has restored the man to the community of God’s people. At once he tells the newly healed man to fulfill the provisions of the Jewish law by going to a Temple priest and offering sacrifice. Jewish priests were then also quarantine officials.

          Where did Jesus get this power to heal? He received it in his hours of silent waiting on his heavenly Father in prayer. Just before encountering this leper, Jesus has been on a mountain, Matthew tells us. Mountains in those days were considered especially close to God. Jesus has just been praying. He needed those times of silence, alone with his heavenly Father. It was in those hours of solitude that Jesus nurtured the power to heal, to say to rough working men, “Follow me,” and have them obey him on the spot. And if Jesus, whose inner resources were infinitely greater than ours, needed those times alone with God, we are fools and guilty fools, if we think we can do without them.