Miraculous Teachings by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
He said to him, "See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them."
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained out-side in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
The miracles of Our Lord serve several purposes. First, and most obviously, they bring healing to the particular person: sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, health to the lame.
Second, they reveal Our Lord's divine authority. As Nicodemus says to Him, "(We) know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him." (Jn 3:2) But His miracles have still another purpose - to reveal Him and the nature of His mission. One of Our Savior's first miracles - His healing of a leper (cf Mk 1:40-45) - provides a nice case study.
By this miracle, Our Lord does not intend merely to "wow" the people. Nor does He only show His divine authority. He wants to teach us about Himself and His mission. Indeed, in this account (and those like it) we can find salvation history in miniature.
First, the leper "came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, 'If you wish, you can make me clean.'" This summarizes man's situation and his ceaseless cry to God. As leprosy eats away at a man's body and brings decay to him even as he lives, so sin renders us dead and decaying even as we seem to the world to be alive.
Further, sin imposes on us the most miserable quarantine - alienation from God. We are divided from God, from one another and from our very selves. Burdened by such spiritual decay and alienation, man constantly cries out to God, "If you wish, you can make me clean."
Then we hear God's response He was "moved with piety" (Mk 1:41). The original Greek indicates a deep emotion. It describes a certain upheaval and even violence within. It resembles what God says to Hosea: "My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender." (Hos 11:8) The strength of expression indicates the origin of our salvation - within the heart of God Himself. He comes to save us not begrudgingly or reluctantly. What prompts Him to act on our behalf is the love for us He bears within Himself.
Then comes the miracle itself. Jesus "stretched out his hand, touched him and said to him, 'I do will it. Be made clean.'" (Mk 1:41) There is a unity of word and action here. First, Our Lord expresses His will clearly: "Be made clean." The cleaning of the leper corresponds to the sanctification of our souls.
Let this miracle end any doubt about God's will for us. He speaks these words to the leper to express His desire for all of us. What He wills for us is not suffering, misery or condemnation. As the Apostle says, "This is the will of God, your sanctification." (1Thes 4:3) He wills our sanctification, salvation and eternal happiness. His will to this regard is not lacking. . . but ours often is.
Two significant actions accompany Our Lord's words - He stretched out His hand and He touched the leper. This may seem a small thing to us, but Jesus was doing what the Law of Moses forbade. He was having direct contact with a leper. And by doing so He broke the quarantine and restored the leper to God, to Israel and to himself.
That action of Our Lord - stretching out and touching the leper - is an image of our salvation. By His Incarnation, the Son of God stretches Himself forth from heaven and touches us spiritual lepers in the most intimate manner. By taking on our human nature, He breaks the quarantine that sin imposed, He unites God and man. He accomplishes His will for our sanctification not from some far off place, not apart from us. Rather, He accomplishes His will by stretching out and touching us. Salvation comes from God's contact with us.
Our Lord's miracles reveal Our Lord Himself. We must not limit this miracle to the one leper, or even to just a manifestation of Christ's divine authority. We should see in it a summary of what He has accomplished and desires still to accomplish in our souls.
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