6th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Here's the thing. . .the thing you must, must understand: the Lord always and everywhere, without exception or condition, always and everywhere, wants to make you clean. It is never the case – NEVER – that the Lord doesn't want to make you clean. It should never enter your mind: does the Lord want to make me to clean? The answer is always yes. Don't even ask the question. Why? Because the answer is always yes. If you already know the answer, don't ask the question. The leper asks the question because he's not sure. He's not convinced that Lord wants to make him clean. Why should he think the Lord doesn't want him to be clean? He's got no good reason to think he does. Leviticus is clear that lepers are outcasts. They have to dress like mourners for the dead. They have to shout “unclean” wherever they go. There were bells and signs around their neck, announcing their infectious disease. Not to mention the stench and obvious oozing scabs. This leper has no good reason to believe that Jesus wants him to be clean. You, on the other hand, have every reason to believe, to know that Jesus not only wants you to be clean but that he can actually make you clean. This isn't about Jesus and what he wants, it's about you and what you want.
The leper wants to be clean. But he has no good reason to believe that Jesus will make him clean. But he asks anyway, “If you wish you can make me clean.” Notice the difference between what Jesus can do and what he wishes to do. The leper has heard about Jesus and his healing miracles. The leper knows that Jesus can heal him. The question is whether or not Jesus wants to heal him. Jesus resolves the mystery: “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leper is made clean. Here's where we have an advantage over the leper. We know that Jesus wants/wills us to be clean. Our disease isn't leprosy. Our disease isn't being run out of town for having oozing, scabby sores. Our diseases are much less physically dramatic but far more deadly. Our diseases unsettle not just the body but the soul. Our diseases infect and damage our person – who we are as children of God and heirs to the Kingdom. Our diseases are freely chosen rebellion and willful disobedience. Am I talking about COVID and cancer and Alzheimer's? No. I'm about those thoughts, words, and deeds that we select, that we favor in direct opposition to the will of the Father for our flourishing. I'm talking about sin.
And even as I talk about sin, I am confident that Jesus wants to heal us. He wants to make us clean. Not only can he makes us clean, he wants to make us clean. And not only does he want to make us clean, he became Man and suffered painfully and died on the Cross and rose from the grave and ascended into heaven. . .why?. . .So that we can be clean. There is no question there. He wants/wills/desires us to be clean. The question is: do we – you and I – want to be made clean? The leper is tired of yelling “unclean” everywhere he goes. He's tired of being beaten, run out of town, spat on. He's tired of being a pariah. He's tired of being the monster moms use to scare their kids into obedience. He's tired of being sick and tired. So, what does he do? In faith, with fear and trembling, he approaches the Lord, the one he's heard about in the streets, and he says, with faint confidence and a little bravado, “If you wish you can make me clean.” What's he got to lose? What? Jesus will rebuke him for daring to ask for a miracle? He might get smacked by one of the disciples for impudence? He's got nothing to lose. He's got nothing to lose. . .but his disease. That's what we call a Winning Hand.
The secret of the Gospel – if there is one – is that you have nothing to lose. You belong to Christ. You and everything you have. Your spouse, your kids, your property, the stuff that fills your property. You have nothing to lose in asking Christ to make you clean. You don't even have to gamble. The leper gambles because he's not sure about Jesus' intentions. You and I have 2.000 years of knowing and living the Apostolic Faith, so we know that Christ's intention in becoming Man, dying on the Cross, rising from the grave, and ascending into Heaven is that you and I can be healed. . .IF. . .we want to be healed, if we want to be clean. Do you want to be clean? Do you want to be healed? Think carefully before you answer this question: what do you have to lose? Your answer to that question reveals precisely who or what it is that's keeping you from asking our Lord to heal you. Your answer to that question is the name of the god you serve. And it is the name of the disease that owns you. The leper chooses Christ. And he is healed b/c Christ wills him to be healed. Choose Christ. In your disease, your anxiety, your despair, your sin. . .choose Christ. He has always said, is saying now, and will always say, “Be made clean.”