Last Sunday I described how the greatest human illness, and the one that Jesus came to cure us from primarily, is our spiritual infection of original sin which tugs our hearts away from God, away from who we were created to be. In our concupiscence, our tendency toward sin, we see a kind of self-centeredness in thought, word, and action that places our own needs, wants, desires above that of everyone else. This is why Christ came to die on the cross – to restore us to Grace and wholeness.
There are many things we can learn from the leper today. First, he approaches the Lord with two simple things: faith and humility. In his kneeling before the Lord and his words, “if you will it,” we see his Humility in recognizing his own wretchedness and his undeserving of God's gracious gifts. In his coming to Jesus and his words, “you can make me clean,” we see his awareness of God's power to do such good and the trust that His desire is to indeed do so. And like the leper, we can begin to experience restoration and healing immediately after we approach Jesus, in faith and in humility, for healing of our spiritual infection.
But today, the leper, who is admirable in so many ways, also eventually fails. Remember that in last week's Gospel, after curing so many and going away to the desert for prayer before sunrise, Jesus declares, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come. ” Today, the leper makes it impossible for Jesus to preach as He had wished, because he fails to follow the simple plans that the Lord had given him: tell no one, present yourself to the priest, offer what Moses proscribed. Instead of obeying this, this leper cannot contain himself: his gratitude overflows. Now, this is only human and natural since he has experienced a kind of foretaste of the resurrection, being given back his place in the community that had been but a memory. However, what he did hurt the preaching of the Gospel.
We must remember that all of Our Lord's commands for us are for our benefit. He cares for us deeply - this is why he heals the leper in the first place: "If you wish, you can make me clean." “I do will it. Be made clean.” Discipleship entails not only faith and humility, but practical obedience to the clear commands God has for us – this is the way to the fullness of restoration and healing. Concupiscence is not like chicken-pox: I survived it once, I am healed, and I need not worry about it anymore. No, recovery from our sinfulness requires vigilance, a life-long perseverance that even the saints must keep until they go to their eternal rest.
So Yes, we all must go to the Lord to be healed of our illnesses, particularly our most tragic: our sins and sinful tendencies. But beyond that, we must courageously obey His commands for our life by living the full message He has preached to us. Then and only then will we find rest for our souls, rest in a peace the World cannot give, a peace that we are offered today from this altar.