THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
Third Sunday After The Epiphany
23 January 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
In today’s Gospel we witness two miracles performed by Our Lord: the healing of a leper and the healing of the Centurion’s servant.
The leper first came and adored Jesus before he asked of Him any favors. This is a very important part of the lesson for today that is often overlooked. The first thing this man did was to acknowledge that Jesus is God. He says: “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.” Only God has that kind of power of Himself. He does not ask Jesus to intercede for him, petition for him, or to apply some remedy that will help him. It is clear that he recognizes Jesus as God who has the power to do all things. If we look closely we also see that there is not really any formal request for help. It is merely a statement or acknowledgement of Jesus’ power. He basically says: Jesus if you want to you can heal me of this disease. This is a profound act of faith.
It is also well for us to note that in not making a formal request he is in essence trusting completely in God. God knows what is in our best interest and so in our petitions we should acknowledge this as Jesus showed us in His prayer in the Garden of Olives “Lord if it is possible let this cup pass from Me; not My will but Thine be done.” We have no idea of what is for our own good and so we must always pray as Jesus did and as we see this leper pray – without any insistence upon our own will or desires, but with complete resignation to the will of God.
Jesus heard and acknowledged this request of the leper when He said: “I will,” followed by “Be thou made clean.” He shows us that what God wills is done. All that is necessary is for God to will it and it is done. So there would be no doubt, Jesus at the same time stretched forth His hand and touched the leper.
Jesus did what was forbidden – He touched a leper. This law was written to prevent the spread of the disease. With the touch of God things are not like the touch of men. Instead of sickness defiling the clean one who touched him, we see just the opposite taking place: the clean cleanses that which is defiled. To the clean all things are clean. Thus we see that Christ sets aside so many of the regulations of the Old Testament concerning clean and unclean. The other nations (Gentiles) are all made clean in Christ. We see that all foods are made clean and acceptable for us to eat in the New Testament. This seems to be something that many have lost sight of. All that God has made and given us is good. It is our evil use of the good things that is evil. We are not so much defiled by the things around us. The defilement comes from within us rather than from without us. It is not what enters the body that defiles a man rather it is the evil that comes forth from his own heart.
The innocent and humble see no evil where the corrupt and defiled find it openly manifested. The clean remain unsullied by the defilement around them because there is no evil in their hearts. So all that they take in is good – even the evil is transformed into a good for them. To the evil person though, all the evil around him amplifies the evil that is within him and the evil within him amplifies the evil around him. In this manner evil grows in the world and in our souls. The clean and innocent receive and give only that which is good and thus they increase the goodness around themselves and within themselves.
The Centurion makes a similar act of faith: “only say the word and my servant shall be healed.” All that is necessary is for Jesus to will it and it is done. This second miracle reinforces the lesson given in the first: Jesus does not petition in our behalf before God, nor does He apply some natural remedy; Jesus is God and therefore all that He must do is will it and it is done. When God speaks all of creation hears and obeys. All that is necessary is for Jesus to will something for it to be done.
There is one more very important virtue that we must not forget and that is seen in the words of this Centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou should enter under my roof.” The true and humble acknowledgement of our own unworthiness is most pleasing to God. In this acknowledgement of our unworthiness we resign ourselves again to whatever God chooses to will in our behalf. This humility causes one to meekly accept the cross if this is God’s will. It is so true that we are all sinners and therefore unworthy of God’s graces that the Church puts in our mouths at every Mass these same words and sentiments. In this truly humble state we hope as both the leper and the Centurion did for the relief of our sufferings.
Let us learn to first worship Jesus as God and then humbly present our needs to Him with perfect patience and resignation to His holy will, believing and trusting that all things work for the good of those who love God.