Grace to you!
I reflect on a moving encounter between the Blessed Lord and a man suffering from leprosy in the Gospel of Matthew 8:1-4.
The Lord had finished the Sermon on the Mount. The sermon moved his audience in an incredible, astonishing way. They confessed they had never seen a speaker with such power and authority behind his word (Mt 7:28-29). After this, the Lord came down from the mountain.
It was clear that, at least, many of the astonished audience committed to following him. His words were like never they had seen. The power of God's Word feels the same to anyone who has opened their hearts as Christ speaks through his Word in Scripture and the Church's liturgy. In both, he continues to speak and minister grace to those of us in need of it.
I suspect the Leper must also have been listening from a distance. Or someone may have told him about this great speaker with power in their midst. The seed of faith was sown in his heart. "Faith comes by hearing" (Rom 10:17). He embraced it and encountered far deeper healing, which began when his heart stirred to reach out to the Lord.
I was fascinated by the movement from the Lord to the man and back to the Lord. We read that the Lord came down, then the crowd followed him (Mt 8:1). In our Christian life, the initiative is always God's first. We do not choose God first. God chooses us first and commissions us to bear fruit (Jn 15:16). From Abraham's call to the last person that will ever receive the gift of faith in Christ, God makes the first choice for us. So, Jesus taught and sowed the seed of renewal and then came down so people could receive even more of the incredible grace of his life.
One could also relate this to the Incarnation's mystery that God stooped and became like us so we can become Godly. God revealed to us the God-self so we can be elevated to the God-life.
Though God begins the entire process and nurtures it, we must respond so that the healing grace will renew us. One would not expect God to force himself on us. It is not in Divine character to do so. The Divine approach is like a gentle knock at the door, as the Lord patiently waits for us to open the door and welcome him (Rev 3:20) and heal.
We read about the Leper doing just that, welcoming the divine invitation. He came to Jesus
“and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you will [wish], you can make me clean" (Mt 8:2).
He didn’t just come as a spectator. He came with a goal. He wasn’t a fan. He was a believer. More importantly, he came with a reverent heart. He knelt—a gesture of reverence and prayer—and prayed for his need. He may not have had a deepened faith that knows that God's love and compassionate heart is already pursuing the wounded. But he sure had sufficient faith as to hang on to the belief in the power of Christ to save and heal him.
By saying to the Lord, "If you wish," he was confessing, he believed the Lord had the power to do so. This was an incredible faith since, at the time, nobody (except the Blessed Virgin Mary) knew Jesus was God.
"If you wish" is also a confession of the man's hopelessness before this sickness that has ostracized him from the community. It was a sort of tone of "you are my last resort for healing."
Finally, "if you wish" was the man's disposition to accept the will of God. It was a tacit acknowledgment that he was not pursuing the Lord because of the miracles he may expect but seeking the Lord's will. "If you wish" could also be seen as "thy will be done."
We know the Lord cares. We know the Lord wishes, wills that all be saved and come to him. We know the Lord does not lose anyone who has come to him.
Hence, Jesus did the miracle with an additional flavor of a touch of his hands. He didn't need to do so, because if he spoke his word on the sick, they heal. But he stretches out his hand and touches the infected spots. By so doing, he identifies with the man's brokenness, renewing his mortal body with his divine body. The meeting of our weak body by the Divine life is the healing that endures.
Do you need healing from your wounds of sin? Are you in need of healing from other pains of the body and soul? Is your loved one or family in need of such? Today's encounter is a witness to the healing power of grace.
The Lord is already waiting. He is waiting at your corner and in your home. He wishes to speak to you in Scripture and to feed and encounter you in a more profound way at the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). The Lord is with us and within us. He is present so you can be healed. Speak to him and heal. “By his wounds, we are healed” (Is 53:5).
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu.
[Friday Ordinary Time Week 12: 2 Kings 25:1-12; Matthew 8:1-4]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.