If You Wish, He Can Make You Clean

Homily for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
February 11, 2018
St. Henry – 7:30 AM Eastern Time (St. Henry, Indiana)

Focus:              If you wish, he can make you clean.
Function:        Will it – be made clean!


Pope Francis

It was the most dreaded of all diseases.  Leprosy.  The word means “to peel off”.  For someone who lived during Old Testament times, leprosy was a living death.  One was separated from family and community.  They were kept outside, away, apart, at a safe distance, where they would not be able to infect others.

Today we meet one of them.  We meet a leper.  He comes to Jesus, kneels down, and begs him:
If you wish, you can make me clean.

Last week, I found myself in the chapel at Saint Meinrad for a time of Eucharistic adoration.  As I sat there, I was aware of my own need to go to confession.  It had only been two weeks and yet I knew that I needed to go.  There was something bothering me, sin weighing me down and getting in the way of my relationship with the Lord, something for which I knew that I needed to ask forgiveness…a leprosy of the heart that needed to be cured.

And I sat there.

I sat there knowing that I needed to go but not wanting to go.

Perhaps you can relate.

So often, we think of confession as our once/year obligation that needs to be met.  We hate to go.  We think we don’t need to go.  We’d rather pretend we’re fine.  I haven’t been that bad, after all.  I’m a good person. 

I’m sure the leper was a good person too.  He still needed to be healed of his leprosy.

All of us experience this leprosy of the heart in its different forms.  There’s the leprosy of a heart puffed up by pride, a heart embittered by anger, a heart soiled by lust or soured by envy.  There’s the leprosy of a heart weakened by gluttony, paralyzed by sloth, or poisoned by greed.

The leprosy of the heart plagues us.  Sometimes we are all too well aware of it and at other times we try to pretend it’s not there, but we can’t escape it.  We know it’s there.

And like the leper, we can’t cure it on our own.  Like the leper, we need to come to Jesus with a simple request:

If you wish, you can make me clean.

Sin makes us want to hide.  We try to hide it like Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves in the Garden.  But, like leprosy, sin doesn’t get better by hiding it.  We must bring it into the light.

The leper had to show himself to Jesus Christ, the true priest.  And, brothers and sisters, so must we.  We must show our leprosy to the priest.

Just as leprosy disfigured the body, so sin defaces the soul.

Just as leprosy caused pain, fear, and depression, so sin destroys interior peace, creates remorse and instills fear of judgement.

But the good news of the Gospel is that we are not to be left in our sins.  Our leprosy is not incurable.  It can be healed!  God sent his Son to die for us so that it could be healed!  God wants to dwell in our hearts – he wants to make his abode in our hearts, but he can do so only if we allow him to first heal our hearts so that they can become a fit dwelling place for him!

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”  If we are to be pure of heart, we must allow him to clean the leprosy from our hearts.

We must approach him with the words of the leper on our lips:
If you wish, you can make me clean.

I finally got up.  I walked into the confessional and showed my leprosy to the Lord.  If you wish, you can make me clean. I allowed him, in the person of the priest, to stretch out his hand and to speak the words that he spoke to the leper in today’s Gospel: I do will it, be made clean

The invitation works both ways.  The leper said to Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”

Jesus extends the invitation to you: “If you wish, I can make you clean”

Do you will it?

Do you want to be made clean?

Lent begins this week.  Confession is a great way to start Lent.  Then, we can direct our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving toward overcoming a particular leprosy of the heart.  We can direct our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to the Lord, asking him to heal us of the particular leprosy that we struggle with, be it pride, anger, greed, lust, envy, sloth, or gluttony.  We can focus our Lenten disciplines toward asking the Lord to overcome these vices in us and to help us to cultivate the opposite virtues.  He will do it.  He wishes to make you clean.

When the leper was healed, he couldn’t contain his joy.  His living death was over.  He experienced resurrection.  He experienced new life.  He experienced redemption.

If you wish, you can make me clean.

Jesus wills it.

Do you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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