Heb 3:7-14; Ps 95:6-11; Mk 1:40-45
It’s so easy for our hearts to go astray. It’s as if we do not know the ways of the LORD. It’s as if we had never gone though an Advent Waiting nor celebrated another Christmas and Epiphany. Our heart is so restless as Saint Augustine teaches us; these hardened hearts seem to have been hard wired for sin or at least for concupiscence. If only we would hear his voice, once we listen to his loving wisdom, then we would come and bow down in worship. We would gladly kneel before the LORD who made us. Indeed, the LORD is our God and we are the people he shepherds; we are the flock he guides. Rather than loving obedience to His Voice we tempt the LORD and test him with our hardness of heart. Indeed, like our ancestors at Meribah, we tempt the LORD. Like our forefathers on the day of Massah, in the desert, we demand that God do our will. Like spoiled kids, we expect him to change our hearts, right now and without further hesitation. We expect immediate results and magical solutions. We do not want to rest in his will. We have no desire for intimacy with the LORD. Like those who were dying of thirst in the wilderness, we expect the LORD to attend to our every whim and desire. After all what kind of a God would let us die of thirst? Is he really God, or is he some kind of a demon? Who is this LORD who dares to test our faith? Who does he think we are? Does he think we can endure another trial? No wonder the LORD is weary. Perhaps today we will hold on to the beginning of the reality of His Faithful Love firmly until the end. Perhaps today we will open our hearts to the blazing light of his pity and receive his healing touch despite our leprosy.
Through the inspired prayers of King David the Holy Spirit speaks to this rebellious generation on our journey from slavery to sin into the holiness of obedience. It takes an erring and unfaithful heart to ignore the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. How can we pray the Book of Psalms month after month and never repent? How can we read again and again of his faithful love and boundless mercy and never grown in virtue? Perhaps vice is more attractive. Or perhaps virtue is too dull. We cannot just rest on our achievements in the spiritual life. Without daily vigilance we are bound to make virtue into an idol; we are bound to fall down and worship our meager successes. This letter to the Hebrews is a warning we need to hear to avoid growing hardened by the deceit of sin. Only Christ does not lie to us; only the Holy Spirit speaks the truth of Abba’s love for us. This unexpected grace is nothing less than startling. This shocking love changes everything. No longer do we rest in our own achievements; from now on we only rest in God’s Love. In this rest we find our new identity, partners of Christ.
It seems that the leper in today’s gospel had taken on the identity expected of him in society. He did not expect anything from anyone. However, everyone expected him to keep his distance, shout out the necessary warning, “Beware! A leper is near!” In a gesture of liturgical and private worship an unnamed leper came and kneeling down begged the Lord Jesus to make him clean. What could have motivated such a dangerous act? Where did this reject get such courage? How did he know that the Lord Jesus could make him clean? If he wanted to, he could clean the unclean; of this the stranger is confident. Such a dramatic gesture and a heart felt request received only pity from the Lord Jesus. It was his divine compassion that moved the Lord Jesus to stretch out his hand, touch the untouchable leper and say, “I do will it. Be made clean.” These are the very words our hearted hearts long to hear. Indeed, these are the only words that can remove our stony hearts and give us human hearts. Without these words of divine tenderness we, will never be moved to compassion in our relationships with those we find repulsive, like lepers. The Lord Jesus did not count the cost of being so kind. Even though such a public gesture of love and mercy would attract crowds of needy people, and even though such public adulation would give rise to envy on the part of the powerful, still the Lord Jesus holds not back. He takes the risk with anyone who kneels and asks for a healing touch. Why do we still hold back? Do we think the Lord Jesus has run out of pity? Do we think our leprosy will not elicit his compassion?