Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Third Sunday after Epiphany—25 January AD 2015

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Chair of Unity Octave Prayer

” Lord, if Thou wilt,  Thou canst make me clean.”[1]

    Saint Jerome—our expert on all things biblical—points out to us that the cure of the leper in today’s Gospel is the first of the many recorded cures by our Lord:  “after preaching and doctrine comes the occasion for a sign, that the power of the miracle might confirm in the hearers the truth of the teaching that had gone before.”[2]  But Jerome also observes that the leper, because of his condition, would not have been among those hearing Jesus in His famed “Sermon on the Mount.”  Because of it highly contagious nature, those with leprosy were forbidden by the Mosaic Law from associating with healthy people.[3]  So we don’t know how the leper became aware of Jesus’ power.

    Yet it is clear that the leper believed that Jesus could cure him, for he says as much:  “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.”  Jesus’ response is significant:  “I will, be thou made clean.”  The “I will” in English, might mean Jesus assent that He was going to do something.  But if we look at the Latin, it is “Volo. Mundare—I want it.  Be made clean.”  (It is the same in Greek:  Θέλω, καθαρίσθητι—Thelo katharisthēti—I will it. Be cleansed.”[4]  This “I will,” this “Volo” is nothing less than the will of God.  And just as God created everything in the material universe by an act of His will, so too He is able to cure the things that have gone wrong with His material creations.

The second recorded cure is similar.  Like the leper, the centurion is something of an outcast among the Jews, for a centurion was a commander in the hated Roman occupational army.  But somehow, he too, perceived the power of Jesus Christ.  And he knows very well how such a powerful will can function:  “I also am a man subject to authority”—If I want something done, I tell somebody and they do it!—“only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.”

    The third cure seems to have been worked at the request of Saint Peter and his family, when they entered Peter’s home in Capharnaum, where Peter’s “wife' s mother was taken with a great fever, and they besought Him for her.”[5]  Saint Luke goes on that “He commanded the fever, and it left her. And immediately rising, she ministered to them.”  Luke was a physician—he would surely noticed if our Lord had done something medicinal to Peter’s mother-in-law—but, instead Luke speaks of Jesus “commanding the fever”  Again, the cure comes from the will of God, rather than from some sort of cause and effect worked by the man Jesus!  Jesus did not tell Peter’s wife “give her two aspirins and call Me in the morning”!

    Now, none of this is to say that there is anything wrong with seeing a physician when we are ill.  The great Saint Paul took Saint Luke along with him on his journeys.  He refers to him as “Luke, the most dear physician.”[6]  Paul, who exercised the power of Christ through miracles of his own—who cured the sick and even raised a man from the dead—was happy to have the assistance of a physician.  Paul certainly had more than his share of human ailments.  He spoke of having been given by God “a thorn in the flesh” to make him humble.[7]  He also wrote that “five times did I receive forty lashes, save one.  Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck,  a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea.”[8]  Clearly the man had need of his personal physician!

    Now, sometimes an illness is for our sanctification.  “This is the will of God, your sanctification.”[9]  Sometimes God sends us that “thorn in the flesh” that is necessary to get our attention—that it is necessary for us to turn our lives around—to “get straight” and follow His Commandments.  And actually following the Commandments faithfully is much the same as making our will conform to the will of God.

    How did the leper and the centurion know the power of Christ?  Very likely, neither attended the Sermon on the Mount.  We really don’t know how to answer that question.  The centurion may have had the time to hear rumors, but in all the biblical accounts the leper approached Christ immediately on his descent from the Mount.  The “rumor mill” would have had no time to inform him.  Perhaps we can attribute both to divine inspiration.

    But we have the mechanism to know both the teachings of Jesus and the power of His will.  These things have been recorded for us by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  All we have to do is to read them!

    Now, I cannot guarantee you that reading the Scriptures and keeping the Commandments will keep all of you healthy.  That will, in fact, lead you to keep a healthy life-style.  But, again, sometimes suffering and illness are God’s will for our sanctification; for penance for our own sins, and for those of the world..  More important, though, is that knowing God’s will, and living one’s life in accordance with it, will lead us to something more precious than health or even life itself.  Knowing the will of God and keeping it will bring us to eternal life.

    If you go and read the Sermon on the Mount for yourself—and I hope you will—you will learn that Jesus concluded it by saying: “he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”[10]



[1]   Gospel: Matthew viii: 1-13

[2]   Homily in the Third Nocturn at Matins.

[7]   2 Corinthians xii: 7


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