Be Made Clean!
Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time - B

Frank Enderle
Reproduced with Permission

We know that Jesus was a kindhearted and understanding person. In our Gospel Reading today we can also see how incredibly brave he was. Jesus was like us in everything, except for sin, so he could catch the same illnesses that we can. But when he saw the leper approach him, the Lord’s heart went out to this poor sick man. Jesus not only allowed this unknown man, who had obviously contracted leprosy, to approach him, He reached out and touched this outcast, this untouchable person who had to cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever he approached anyone so that others could scurry out of the way.

The leper kneeled down humbly before Jesus and simply said: “If you want to, you can heal me.” He knew that only God can heal and save. When we know that no one else can help us, we pray a lot. And the more we sincerely pray, the more our hearts become humble because it is simply impossible to pray, to request God’s help, without being humble. Conversely, as long as we are overcome by pride and conceit, then heartfelt, sincere prayer is just not possible.

And you know something, when we become humble, God’s compassion immediately surrounds us and our hearts discover a strength rising up within us, the strength of trust in God. And when we feel God’s help, when we feel that God is present in our lives, that God truly wants to come to our aid, our hearts are immediately filled with faith. It is then that we understand that prayer is not only a consolation for those who have no hope, it is also a source of salvation for sinners, a light for those who are in darkness, a support for the weak and the ill, a shelter in times of trial, a shield that saves in combat, an arrow sent out against Satan, who is the enemy of all. A multitude of good, a feeling of spiritual well being enters into each and every one of us when we pray.

I don’t know if you know it or not but the early Church described the road to spiritual well being using a medical approach. I like to call it their “healthy soul program.” They saw spiritual well being as wholeness, as the way we were meant to be. Sin was described as an illness, not as an isolated action, but as a symptom of serious attitude problems. We sin because we don’t care about our relationship with God. We only care about ourselves. If we use this medical model we can easily understand the need to continue to make progress, to continue to advance, to continue to grow in our faith. If we want to remain physically healthy we don’t simply try to avoid disease. We develop and strengthen our body with proper nourishment, exercise and self-discipline.

And if we want to maintain a healthy spiritual life, we don’t simply try to avoid sin, though that’s really not a bad idea. We look deep within ourselves and try to develop a lasting relationship with God. We seek proper nourishment through the sacraments. We work out proper and healthy relationships with those who surround us who, like us, are created in the image and likeness of God. We learn about our own faith and exercise our souls through spiritual retreats and a prayerful life. We practice spiritual self-discipline which means that we learn to deal with unhealthy attitudes and desires, with temptations, that well up within all of us from time to time. And when we know that we are sick, we go to Jesus, as the leper did, and in the Sacrament of Penance we confess our sins, we take our spiritual medicine and we move on to healthier choices in our lives. We love the one God who in turn loves us. We trust in the one God who in turn has placed his trust in us. And we believe in the one God who in turn believes in us.