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Nowadays, we call leprosy Hansen’s disease. In ancient Israel, leprosy was a general term for all sicknesses of the skin. Whether it was pimples, acne, eczema, leprosy, psoriasis, or buni, all of those skin diseases were considered leprosy. Anything that is a blemish on the skin was considered leprosy.
Here was a leper. A leper was supposed to stay away from the community because he was considered dirty spiritually. He was also contagious physically. The leper prayed. How did he pray to Jesus? He prayed with awe, simply saying, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”
In our Catechism of the Catholic Church, we say there are different types of prayer: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication or petition. The leper prayed with so much hope, prayed with so much faith, and his faith was repaid and rewarded.
That is the first lesson for the day: the prayer of hope. How did the Lord respond to the leper’s prayer? How did the Lord respond to that prayer of hope made by the sick man? The response of the Lord was also a response of hope. He did not only speak to the leper. He did not only come near the leper, but He touched the leper. According to the law, it was immoral, it was illegal, it would make you spiritually impure to touch a leper because a leper is impure. A leper is not clean, and by touching the leper, you incur uncleanliness, impurity on yourself. Yet the Lord broke away from all those beliefs and norms. He spoke to the leper, went near the leper, and touched the leper.
The second lesson for tonight is what the Lord did. What did the Lord do? He reached out with hope. He gave hope to the leper and said, “I do will it. Be clean.” The first message for the day: prayer of hope. The second lesson of the day: a gesture of hope.
What is the third lesson of the Gospel? It is a mission of hope. After the leper was made clean, his mandate was to go to the temple and pray. But before going to the temple, he met so many people along the way and he started talking. I understand him because when our hearts are so full, we can hardly keep quiet. When we have been so blessed, we can hardly hold our tongue. When we have received something that is immeasurable, almost incredible, how can we keep quiet?
It feels like we will die of a heart attack because of the joy that cannot be contained in the heart. That leper was so happy that is why he started talking. I can understand him because he had been given so much. We share that hope.
We have witnessed it: a prayer of hope, an action of hope, and a mission of hope, all because a leper had been touched by God. How does it apply to us? We are not lepers perhaps, but if we just remove the word “leprosy” and substitute “leprosy” with sin, then the whole story applies to us. We are sinners and we have cut ourselves from the Lord.
All we need to do is to make a prayer of hope, a prayer of total trust in God who is merciful. He wants to assure us that we will indeed be forgiven. God will give us new hope and give us new life.
It should not end there. If we have experienced the goodness of God, if we have experienced new life in God, we must talk, we must speak, we must proclaim how much God has done in our lives so that as we have received hope, we in turn will become messengers of hope for our troubled world, for our troubled neighborhood, for our troubled Church. We can go home tonight carrying only one word in our hearts: hope. That is why Jesus came—to give us hope.
Love Like Jesus