DAILY GOSPEL COMMENTARY: “LORD, IF YOU WILL, YOU CAN MAKE ME CLEAN.” (Mt 8:1-4).
Gospel of Friday, 12th week in Ordinary Time
Mt 8: 1-4
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; 2 and behold, a leper came to him and knelt When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.
And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said,
“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”
He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said,
“I will do it. Be made clean.”
His leprosy was cleansed immediately.
Then Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one,
but go show yourself to the priest,
and offer the gift that Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. Matthew (with permission)
The curing of a leper
1 When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him;
- The Gospel draws attention, for the third time, to the huge crowds who flocked to Jesus: literally, “many multitudes followed him”.
- This shows the popularity he had achieved: he was so popular that the Sanhedrin (the great council of the Jewish nation) dared not arrest him for fear of what the people would do (cf. Mt 2 1:46; 26:5; Mk 14:2).
- Later on, they would accuse him before Pilate of stirring up the whole country from Judea to Galilee. And we will see Herod Antipas’ eagerness to meet Jesus, of whom he has heard so much (cf. Mt 14:1). In contrast to this huge popularity, we find the elders opposing him and deceiving the people into calling for Jesus’ execution (cf. Mt 27:20-22).
2 and behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.
- The Fathers have taken the following meaning from this cure: leprosy is a vivid image of sin: it is ugly, disgusting, very contagious and difficult to cure.
- We are all sinners and we are all in need of God’s forgiveness and grace (cf. Rom 3:23-24). The leper in the Gospel knelt down before Jesus, in all humility and trust, begging to be made clean.
- If we have recourse to our Saviour with that kind of faith, we can be sure that he will cure the wretchedness of our souls. We should often address Christ with this short prayer, borrowed from the leper: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”
4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.
- According to the Law of Moses (Lev 14), if a leper is cured of his disease, he should present himself to a priest, who will register the cure and give him a certificate, which he needs in order to be reintegrated into the civil and religious life of Israel.
- Leviticus also prescribes the purifications and sacrifice he should offer. Jesus’ instruction to the leper is, then, in keeping with the normal way of fulfilling what the laws laid down.
VIDEO COMMENTARY ON TODAY’S GOSPEL
TOPIC: DO YOU THANK GOD FOR YOUR PAINS?
“If you wish, you can make me clean.” These are the profound words of a man who was desperate for healing, and yet, he still left it to the discretion of the miracle-worker he knew could heal him. We, too, oftentimes, want healing from our physical illness, from our emotional pain. But in our prayers, in our desperation, we plead, we promise anything under the sky, just so God can hear our cry for help.
TOPIC 2: Do we follow Jesus only for the show or do we show Jesus to potential followers?
Jesus’ first miracle after coming down from His Sermon on the Mount was on a leper. Leprosy did not just afflict the person who had it physically, but he also became a social and spiritual untouchable. Per the law, to distinguish him as having an infectious disease, he had to wear torn clothes, have his hair unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean! He must live outside the camp to protect others from contamination and to teach people about uncleanness.
He had to stay at least 50 feet from a non-leper. Leprosy was viewed as God’s punishment for sin and was incurable at that time. In other words, a leper was a hopeless case. Society did not just frown on him. They treated him as an outcast.
Many today do not see Jesus as their healer. They do not have the reverent boldness of the leper (“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” -Matthew 8:2) to ask Jesus to heal them, perhaps, because they do not even know who Jesus is.
Apart from ourselves desiring healing from Jesus, do you know anyone who is suffering from a dreaded disease that is incurable? Or a person whose relationship problem causes him or her sadness and pain? Or someone whose addiction is hard to escape from? Or one who is suffering from depression? Do you know of anyone who needs to know Jesus and be healed?
Peggy DesNoyers, in Silent No More, narrates this story. “My job as a psychiatric nurse brought me in touch with many people who were searching for answers to problems in their lives. I knew that Jesus was the answer, but I couldn’t bring myself to talk to them about him. I was the master of excuses. Then a patient changed my life. Wanda, 56, suffered with chronic depression. Many people in her family died, some of them tragically. The loss and her grief became too great a burden for the widow. One day she quit her job, went home, pulled the curtains, and refused to leave her house. Eventually she stopped eating. Even the smallest task became too difficult for her.
A neighbor noticed the change in Wanda’s behavior and made arrangements for her to be taken to the hospital, where she was admitted to psychiatric ward. When Wanda went home, I was assigned to be her home health nurse. I visited her weekly to make sure she was taking care of herself. Over the course of 6 months, Wanda, continued to recover. Although I knew she needed to meet Jesus as her Savior, I reasoned that she would soon be attending church and would hear about Him there.
One day, I went to Wanda’s house and was surprised to find the door ajar. I knocked, and when there was no response, I pushed the door open and stepped inside. I found her lifeless body in the bedroom. In her hand was a note to me, saying: “Dear Peggy, I’m so sorry. I tried it your way, but I got tired. Please forgive me.” I cried my heart out to my loving, forgiving Father, saying, “Lord Jesus, I gave her the best that I had. But it was my way. I didn’t tell her about you. I didn’t tell her about your way.” I then promised God I would never pass by another opportunity to tell someone about Him”
Jesus desires the healing of anyone who is humble and bold enough to approach Him in faith.
It might be quite odd when we read Him say to the healed leper “Tell no one,” (Matthew 8:4), because anyone who wants to have his message heard will not want things to be kept secret. But Jesus sought secrecy because he didn’t want kibitzers who will surely ignore the message and focus only on the “show.” He wants us to genuinely be followers who will also be bold to proclaim Him to those who need healing. He wants us, as His disciples to reach out to people who are wandering in the desert of confusion, bewilderment and hopelessness to let them know about Him so that they, too, may be healed.
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