+ One of the most beautiful encounters in the Gospels is placed before us by Holy Mother Church in the Gospel of this Mass: “A leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
“If you will [it]…” the leper pleaded, kneeling. “I will [it]” Our Blessed Lord responded. “And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
The dramatic healing miracles of the Gospels often astonish us and leave us in awe. They most certainly fulfil the task of asserting quite clearly that Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth we celebrated not a month ago, is the Christ of God, the definitive incarnation of God in history. But we can be tempted to leave them there, as it were—after all, very few suffer from leprosy, and our modern mentality rapidly dismisses the possibility of miracles of healing in our day (even when they truly occur).
But leprosy abounds in our day, in many and various forms—in the pervading relativism that continually eats away at any assertion of objective truth; in the materialism that worships any number of calves made of gold or of anything else that money can buy; in the frenetic pursuit of political power that consumes so many and which increasingly seeks to exclude differing stances (most especially theistic ones) from participation in public discourse or even, at times, in holding a legitimate place in society.
These lesions even appear on the Body of Christ, the Church. Relativism, materialism, political power struggles and the exclusion of those who hold perfectly orthodox but currently politically incorrect views is only too well known and even seems to be being enthroned by the (“toxic”) process called “Synodality”.
We, too, disfigure the Body of Christ by complacently allowing the leprosy of sin to take root in our souls and to grow into vice that devours the life of grace in our souls. The seven deadly sins— pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth—are called “deadly” for good reason. They mortally disease us. They gravely wound the Body of Christ.
The picture—in the Church, in the world, and perhaps even in our own souls—may well be fairly bleak, if not desperate. Yet it is in these utterly distressing and dangerous circumstances that here, this morning, amidst all that burdens or oppresses us, the Holy Gospel is proclaimed with great solemnity: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” “I will [it]”
For miracles do happen. They can continue to happen. They can happen today: in the Church, in the world and in the lives of monks and clergy and in the lives men and women living all manner of different vocations. This is the good news—the Gospel—of Jesus Christ announced to us anew in this Holy Mass.
“But how?” we ask, perhaps somewhat cynically. The leper provides the answer: by humbling ourselves and kneeling before the Lord in faith, by recognising our leprosy and begging the healing we need. Popes, prelates, priests, presidents, prime ministers and politicians of every rank, as well as private persons no matter what their circumstances—all of us!—need to fall on our knees before the Lord, to look into His loving eyes with faith, and beg of Him the healing we need.
It is no coincidence that traditionally we kneel at the elevation of the Sacred Host and Chalice at Mass, that we kneel to receive Holy Communion, to confess our sins in the Sacrament of Penance, and to receive other sacraments. To kneel is make an act of faith. And as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote: “"A liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling would be sick at the core."
Do I need to grow in charity, in humility, in patience, in chastity, etc? Let me kneel before the Lord in the confessional and beg His healing. He will grant it, for He wills it. Does the Church and the world require radical, if not miraculous, healing from all that afflicts them? Let us beg these from the Lord with the same faith—and let us be prepared to serve as the instruments of His healing in ways, small and great, which may quite astonish us.
“I will [it],” He says. But we must have the faith to ask Him. And we must persevere in the asking. Then He can work miracles in us and through us.
For the faith and the perseverance we need, let us now beg Him at His altar. +