Lectio Divina for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb. 14, 2021
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
If God was so willing to heal people who came to him when he walked the earth, why doesn’t God heal all those who ask him for healing today? We have healing Masses, and genuine prayers from people who have been suffering for years, yet still people remain unhealed despite the great sincerity of their prayers. The answer from Job is that God is God and his ways are above ours, and we cannot possibly understand why he does things like let people suffer even if the reasons were put right in front of us. Is that the only answer we get this side of heaven, though? Well, no. There’s also the redemptive suffering explanation. Every bit of suffering we experience can be offered up as a recompense for our sins and those of others. While this is also true, there is a simpler anwer. Those who were blessed to walk the earth with Jesus had direct access to the God-man. We do not. People today may be blessed to receive healing through the intercession of a saint, but other than that the miracles of healing God performs are few and far between. The answer to God’s silence in suffering is not complicated, as many people suppose. It’s as simple as the laws of nature. Every cause has an effect, and the effect of sin is death and suffering. People may think that means those who commit sin will suffer for their sins. While that is true, it also means that we all suffer as a result of one another’s sins. As God walked the earth, people had access to the one thing that could overpower the effects of sin: divine innocence, the spotless Lamb. Christ was the only one who could cure any suffering because he is the only one who is completely free from sin and our fallen humanity. Even Mary, the Mother of God, did not have this power because while she was spared from original sin and had no personal sin, she was still human. When Mary and the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they received the power from on high to heal in Jesus’ name. And we have this power today. To be able to use it though, we need to become saints. And even then it is subject to God’s will. So when we read about the leper upon whom Jesus had pity, let’s remind ourselves that with God nothing is impossible, and if we had faith as small as a mustard seed, we could move mountains. Nothing would be impossible for us.
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The simple exchange between the leper and Jesus points to a profound truth. The leper knows that Jesus is not a genie. Despite the leper’s obvious need, he still knows that being healed is up to God, not him. We should take this wisdom to heart when considering our own suffering. After all, Jesus said the same thing to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemene at the beginning of his Passion, saying, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). So many times we think God has to cure us of suffering if he is good. The perpetual criticism of God from atheists is “How can an all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent God allow suffering?” We can spend our entire lives unpacking the simple answer: Because he is God and we are not. If God is not our barometer for what is good, then what is? Our own judgment? We ought to be humble enough to admit that God knows better, and even our sense of goodness is flawed. We see things in bits and pieces, often putting our own perspective before any other; but God sees everything at once and completely with the perfect understanding of it all. So if Jesus says, “Be made clean” to the leper, then there must have been some divine purpose to the miracle.
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
How often do we beg God for something with a contrite heart, promising to follow his will if he just grants this one thing, and then once he grants it we go right back to doing things our way? As humble as the leper was before he was healed, he is just as ignorant once Jesus does heal him. This Gospel passage may not seem like a lesson in suffering at first, but it actually touches upon many aspects of suffering. First, we read about how the leper brings himself before God, desiring to be made clean--but only if Christ wills it. This humility moves Christ with pity and acts as a model for how we ought to approach God in prayer amidst our own suffering. Then, we read about how the leper directly defies Jesus once he is healed. When we suffer, our need for God is apparent to us, often leading us to cry out to him in prayer. If he answers our prayer, for some reason, in our restored state, we often return to thinking we don’t need God. The kinds of suffering can vary here. It can be not just physical suffering, but loneliness, worry, confusion, depression, regret or remorse. In all these kinds of suffering, we often turn to God for help, then turn away from him once things are rosy again. Just as we learned from the leper how to approach God in prayer amidst our suffering, let’s also learn from him what not to do once God answers our prayer.
Lord Jesus, no one can match your healing power, no matter what in us needs to heal. Help us to see what your will is for us, so that we ask for the right thing in prayer. If you will it, heal us in the areas within our lives where you want us to experience healing. We are yours and all we have is yours. Come and fill our lives with your grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
In the moments when we are waiting for God’s response, it’s easier to listen to him. Let’s not forget to continue to listen after he responds with his grace. The message he has to share in the aftermath of his answer to our prayer may be just as important as the answer itself. Let his answer be an invitation to a closer walk with him.
David Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and editor of Catholic World Report.
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