The curing of the Leper

Thursday Week 1 Year 1

The incident in today’s gospel provides material for our reflection on what discipleship entails. The central point of the story is not so much the miracle but the man’s response after he has been cured of his leprosy. It’s interesting to note that Jesus warned him sternly before dismissing them not to speak about this except to the priests and solely for the purpose of his being declared officially clean so that he could rejoin the life of society. And what does the man do? He goes out and blabs about the miracle publicly until it is spread all abroad. The result is that Jesus can no longer move freely in the towns and villages, and so people have to go out of their way to deserted places if they want to see or hear him. The gospel ends by telling us that large numbers did in fact go out to Jesus, but one can only imagine what the numbers would have been had Jesus been free to preach in the more populated areas.

    The problem that the man caused for Jesus by his loose tongue was that knowledge of this miracle will draw people who simply are interested in seeing a miracle or receiving a miracle, but not so much perhaps in what Jesus has to say. There was no danger in telling the priests since they were the last people likely to spread the news of a miracle by Jesus. They were not about to draw more attention to someone they understood as an enemy. But when the man spread the news abroad, it was inevitable that Jesus would have to flee to the wilderness in order to avoid the gawkers and the idly curious.

    How sad that the man treated this warning of Jesus with such little concern. Oh, perhaps one might defend him by saying that it was quite understandable for him to be enthusiastic and want to tell about this great thing that have been done for him. But the fact that he did not obey Jesus suggests strongly that he spread this abroad perhaps not so much to draw attention to Jesus but to draw attention to himself, since he had been isolated perhaps for many years from social interaction. It may seem like a small thing to him, or perhaps even to us, but the fact that Jesus spoke sternly to him suggests that Jesus took it very seriously, while the man who had received this great favor from God through Jesus did not take it so seriously.

    The fact that he would not obey him in what he perceived as a small matter suggests that the man really did not have any deep gratitude for what God had done for him. He was not like the Samaritan leper who came back to thank Jesus while the other nine of his fellow lepers seemed not to be grateful enough to do so. In this case, Jesus asked the man a single favor, not to spread news abroad about this miracle. It was not for the man to decide why Jesus did not want to spread it abroad, and the fact that he did so made him responsible for the consequences that followed in stifling the preaching of Jesus in populated areas.

So what has this to do with us? It teaches us that it is in small things that we show our deep gratitude for God for the big things that he has done for us. Obeying God in serious matters has an element of gratitude, but it has another element of self preservation since this obedience is necessary for our salvation. On the other hand, honoring Jesus in the small things, obeying Jesus in small matters, the venial matters, shows our gratitude in a much more significant way. Failing to obey Jesus in venial matters will not deny us salvation, but it will compromise our love and gratitude for the one who has done so much for us in the really big things, forgiving are serious sins (our leprosy) and pouring his grace upon us so that we can avoid serious sins, and so much more. How grateful are we for that? It’s not a matter of being scrupulous over the small things, but of showing our love and gratitude. Married people understand this, the importance of the small things of love and affection in order to build the larger love that is central to marriage. The same is true of the spiritual life.

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Categories: Weekday reflections

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