Homily for Friday after Epiphany
As I prayed with this Gospel passage yesterday, a couple of things stood out to me about this encounter between Jesus and the leper. First of all, the faith of the man with leprosy is incredible. The second thing is the willingness of Jesus to go against the prescriptions of the ritual law to touch and minister to someone who was unclean.
In the first instance, here is this man who knows that he is among the most ostracized people in the community – he was required by the Jewish Law to basically exclude himself from society. After all we have been through in the last couple of years, we know firsthand what that isolation can be like. This leper was probably at his whit’s end. Who knows how long he had suffered from this illness? Who knows how his loved ones and friends had turned against him for something that he couldn’t control? The loneliness, the isolation, the fear, the anxiety…was too much for him. And so when he heard that Jesus was going to be in the area, you could imagine the hope that filled this man’s heart. We can almost imagine what he said to himself: “If only I could see Jesus, He could heal me.”
So, the leper breaks the Jewish law, he breaks the societal norms, seeks Jesus out and approaches Him to ask for healing. But Jesus also goes against the societal norms. When He sees this poor man, He doesn’t let the Law dictate how He treats this man. Instead, He has mercy and compassion on him. He goes up to him. Jesus embraces the leper and makes Himself unclean in order that this man might be healed. And that is the very message of the entirety of the Gospel; that sums up Jesus’ mission.
Jesus’ whole purpose of becoming man was to take on our infirmities and to bring healing and salvation to the human race. He consistently made Himself unclean for our sake. Look at the Cross. He took on our sins in order to bring victory over sin and death. And Jesus continues to do that saving work today. He constantly is desiring to embrace us in our leprosy. He is waiting to bring us to a place of healing and wholeness…if we only seek Him out.
In what way do we need to be healed? Do we have the faith of the leper from today’s Gospel? Do we believe that Jesus can heal us? As we receive the Eucharist this morning, may we echo the leper’s words and say to Jesus: If you will it, Lord, you can make me clean. And let’s listen to the voice of the Savior who says to us: I do will it; be made clean.