This miracle of the healing of a man afflicted with leprosy drives home the point that the Lord Jesus is concerned with the salvation and restoration of the whole human person, here and now, and not only with people’s spiritual welfare. Every endeavor of the Church to restore the human person to the fullness of humanity as intended by the Creator—physical, mental, social, as well as spiritual—consequently is a vibrant work of the Gospel and a manifestation of God’s will to save: hospitals, counseling centers, schools, soup kitchens, prison chaplaincies, and so forth. We Catholics have in the past, I’m afraid, been too spiritualistic in our outlook, perhaps as a pious way of fleeing demanding responsibilities. The Church ought to be passionately engaged in the well-being of people as God created us, endowed with body, mind and spirit. All works of Christian charity are true epiphanies of God’s will to save in Christ.
Jesus always brings with him to every encounter the reality of what his name means: Yehoshua‘—God saves, heals, restores to wholeness; and he does it by means of both word and deed, both of which require his dynamic presence and involvement in needy people’s lives.
This Gospel begins very casually: “It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was…” Here we see the blessed convergence of the paths of the afflicted man and of the merciful Lord Jesus. For this merging of paths to occur, both Jesus and the man had had to make themselves findable to one another, going out into the unknown. There is a reciprocity between human need and divine mercy and power, a reciprocity that needs to be activated for miracles of healing to happen. The incarnate Word has made himself available as God’s healing Power in our midst; but we, for our part, need to respond to that compassionate Presence by approaching the Lord intimately and full of trust, getting close enough to him to allow him to “stretch out his hand and touch” us with his will to heal. We can be sure that the Holy Spirit is always the driving force impelling the one who seeks out Jesus in order to be healed by him, because, as St John proclaims today in his First Letter: “Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” And bodily and mental afflictions are among the negative forces of “the world” that need to be overcome by faith and the healing power of God. This is an important aspect of our being regenerated by our act of faith in Jesus’ true humanity as a manifestation, in our midst, of the creating and re-creating power of God.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Father Simeon.