Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost - 26 August AD 2012

“Go, and show yourselves to the priests.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
English Text
Latin Text

    Most of the time, if we talk about things in modern times, we tend to have quite a few negative things to say.  “No one has any respect for authority.”  “Those in authority don't deserve any respect.”  “People don't seem to go to church like they used to.”  “They don't have any morals.”  “They lie.”  “They cheat.”  “They steal.”  “etc., etc., etc.”

    But one of the things that we can be pleased with about living in our time is that a good number of the diseases that used to be thought of as catastrophic have been eliminated, or nearly so.  Even the poorest of us can go to the county health department and get ourselves and our children immunized against things like polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria—diseases that, not many years ago, might have been incapacitating or even fatal.

    The Gospel today mentions one of these diseases—one that in the time of Christ was still quite dangerous—in fact, wasn't often curable until the 19th century—that is the disease of leprosy.  Perhaps, because of the climate, leprosy was a fairly widespread disease in the Holy Land.  It is a frightening thing;  disfiguring, and causing a loss of sensation, so the extremities are often lost to accident.  It is described in the Old Testament, along with instructions to keep the leper from being further infected, to keep him from spreading the disease to others, and for certifying the occasionally occurring cures from the disease.

    Like all diseases, leprosy was understood to be the result of original sin.  That is not to say that leprosy had no organic cause, but simply to say that mankind would have been protected by God from sickness, suffering, and death if our first parents had not rejected God's graces.  So, the leper was an outcast—he had a deadly, communicable disease; and even if he wasn't a sinner himself, he reminded everyone of the ugliness of sin in general, and brought to mind the those terrible consequences of sin, sickness, and death.

    It is interesting to note that when our Lord encountered these ten lepers, and had pity on them, and healed them of their leprosy, He insisted that they follow the prescriptions of the Old Testament and present themselves to the priests.  I say it is interesting because our Lord did seem to ignore some of the merely ritual prescriptions of the law.  For example, He healed on the Sabbath, and His disciples picked ears of grain on the Sabbath.  But, here we find Him insisting that these men, obviously cured from their illness, present themselves to the priests.

    Our Lord did this because it was not just some ritual nicety—the priests had jurisdiction over lepers, precisely because it was the priests who were concerned with their own sins and the sins of their people.  It was the priests of the Old Testament who were authorized by God to be the intercessors between God and man—it was they who were empowered to offer sacrifice to God for the forgiveness of human sins, and the appeasement of God's justice.  If leprosy was one of the consequences of sin, it was only natural that the priests would be the ones required by God to judge whether or not it had been cured in a particular individual.

    Our Lord was careful to follow this prescription because He intended to make the same idea part of His sacramental system.  After He had offered the redeeming Sacrifice of the Cross, he gave His priests the authority to forgive the sins of those for whomever they offered the Sacrifice of the Mass.  In other words, even though our Lord redeemed mankind in general;  individual men and women would still have to have their specific sins forgiven by His priests.  “Receive the Holy Ghost,” He told them, “Whoevers' sins you forgive, they are forgiven them;  [but] whoevers’ sins you retain, they are retained.”[2]

    There is something we ought to see in these ten—or at least in the one that returned.  And that is that we ought to have a feeling of gratitude for all of the graces that God gives us.  The lepers ought to remind us of the great opportunity we have in the Sacrament of Confession.  Even though we sin repeatedly, as long as we have some sort of contrition, we can be freed from the bondage of sin, and we can repudiate the human folly of self-induced confusion and suffering, of alienation from God, and ultimately, we can be freed from the eternal suffering and death beyond the grave.

    All we have to do in making a good Confession is to return a very small portion of the love that God shows for us.  “Where not ten made clean?  Then where are the other nine?”





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