THURSDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, as on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors put me to the test, though they had seen my works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known my ways.’ As in my anger I swore, ‘They will not enter my rest.’”
Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.
O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.” Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Why is it that so many people were coming to Jesus from every town? Why was it that he was not able to go about openly? Why was it that he had such a need for crowd control, while in today’s world, we cannot get people to come to church to meet Jesus? Is it not the same Jesus? Why was he so popular in those days and so easily taken for granted today? What has made our hearts so hard in these modern times?
The answer is simple regarding the crowds: Jesus cured the leper. People heard that Jesus could cure the incurable disease. People saw the man who was once outside of society welcomed back in to it. People saw him get his life back. People wanted their own lives back. “If only God would just take care of this, my life would be better.” How often have we thought this? How often have we been frustrated with God when he didn’t answer us the way we would have liked?
Now, Jesus came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). And God hates sickness and anything that leads to death and the destruction of his creation. It was never a part of God’s plan for creation for there to be physical suffering. These are all fallout from original sin. Jesus came to save us from that original sin and the ultimate death, the death of our souls, but he also desires healing of our bodies. However, in our weakness, we can become so single-minded about pursuing what we want. We want to run to Jesus for his divine healing, so we can have our lives back as we initially perceived them, so that we can feel like we are in charge of our lives again.
But our faith is so much more than merely getting what we want. It was the leper’s faith in Jesus that led to his healing. It is our faith in Jesus that is supposed to lead us to eternal life. We run into danger when we diminish our faith into merely asking for the things we want. We run the risk of losing it if we are disappointed. After all, how do we respond if God answers us in a way we did not expect? Do we act like the Israelites, referenced in the first two readings, who lost faith in God? Do we lose faith in God because we cannot see him right now? Do we drop our faith when our lives are not working out the way we want them to? Or do we trust that God is in control? Do we trust that God’s divine will is even better than what we can imagine for ourselves? Do we ask God for the things that we want? Or do we ask God for what he wants for us?
Jesus wills to make us all clean today. Let us bow down before him and ask for his healing touch. Let us ask him to boost our faith, and heal us from our doubts. Let us ask him to cleanse us from our distrust of him. And before we ask God for the things that we want, let us ask God what he wants for us.