“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean,” (Luke 5:12) is the request that we heard addressed to Jesus by a leper. This man does not only ask to be cured, but to be “purified,” that is, to be healed integrally, in body and in heart. In fact, leprosy was considered a sort of curse from God, of profound impurity. The leper had to keep himself far from everyone; he could not access the Temple or any divine service. He was far from God and far from men. Sad lives these people had!
Despite this, that leper was not resigned either to his sickness or to the dispositions that made of him someone excluded. To reach Jesus, he did not fear to infringe the law and to enter the city – something he should not do, he was prohibited to do –, and, when he found Him “he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” (v. 12). All that this man does and says, who was considered impure, is an expression of his faith! He recognizes the power of Jesus: he is sure He has the power to cure him and that all depends on His will. This faith is the strength that enabled him to break every convention and seek the encounter with Jesus and, kneeling before Him, he calls Him “Lord.” The leper’s supplication shows that when we present ourselves to Jesus long speeches are not necessary. A few words suffice, though accompanied by full confidence in His omnipotence and in His goodness. In fact, to entrust ourselves to the will of God means to submit to His infinite mercy. I will also share something personal with you. In the evening, before going to bed, I pray this brief prayer: “Lord, if you will, you can cleanse me!” And I pray five “Our Fathers,” one for each wound of Jesus, because Jesus has purified us with His wounds. But if I do this, you can also do it at home, and say: “Lord, if you will, you can cleanse me!” –and think of Jesus’ wounds and say an “Our Father for each one of them. And Jesus always listens to us.
Jesus is profoundly affected by this man; Mark’s Gospel underscores that “moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” (1:41). Jesus’ gesture accompanies His words and renders His teaching more explicit. Against the dispositions of the Law of Moses, which prohibited coming close to a leper (cf.Leviticus 13:45-46), Jesus stretches His hand and even touches him. How many times we meet a poor man who comes to us! We can even be generous, we can have compassion, but usually we do not touch him. We offer him money, we throw it there, but we avoid touching his hand. And we forget that that is the body of Christ! Jesus teaches us not to be afraid to touch the poor and the excluded, because He is in them. To touch a poor man can purify us of hypocrisy and render us anxious for his condition. Touch the excluded. Today, I am accompanied here by these youngsters. Many think that it would have been better for them if they had stayed in their land, but they suffered so much there. They are refugees, but so many consider them excluded: Please, they are our brothers! A Christian does not exclude anyone, but gives a place to everyone, allows everyone to come.
After curing the leper, Jesus sternly charges him not to speak about it with anyone, but says to him: “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;that will be proof for them.” (v. 14). This disposition of Jesus shows at least three things. The first: the grace that acts in us does not seek sensationalism. It usually moves with discretion and without clamor. To medicate our wounds and to guide us on the way of holiness it works molding patiently our heart on the Lord’s Heart, so as to assume increasingly His thoughts and sentiments. The second: by having the healing that happened verified officially by the priests and celebrating an expiatory sacrifice, the leper is readmitted in the community of believers and in social life. His reintegration completes the healing. As he himself had supplicated, now he is completely purified! Finally, by presenting himself to the priests the leper renders them testimony regarding Jesus and His messianic authority. The strength of compassion with which Jesus cured the leper led the faith of this man to open himself to the mission. He was excluded, now he is one of us.
We think of ourselves, of our miseries … Each one has his own. We think with sincerity. How many times we cover them with the hypocrisy of “good manners.” And precisely then, it is necessary to be alone, to kneel before God and pray: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean!” And do it, do it every evening before going to bed. And now we say together this beautiful prayer: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean!”
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
Greeting in Italian
A warm greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims! I receive with joy the faithful of the dioceses of Alba and Alghero-Bosa, accompanied by their Pastors, Monsignor Brunetti and Monsignor Morfino; the motorcyclists who have come for the Jubilee with the Bishop of Citta di Castello, Monsignor Domenico Cancian; the doctors and volunteers of the “Gemelli” Polyclinic, adherents of the initiative “Give Life with the Heart,” and I thank them for their free cardiological visits to indigents through the mobile ambulatory. Inaugurated in the same hospital last Thursday was the “Small House of Mercy,” a dormitory for persons without a fixed abode, run by Sant’Egidio Community, a concrete work of this Extraordinary Jubilee. Thank you so much!
I greet affectionately the protagonists of the Saracen’s Tournament of Arezzo, dedicated this year to the theme of Mercy, and I express my lively appreciation for their commitment to re-evoke historical events, spreading a message of peace, of dialogue and of encounter between cultures in the name of Saint Francis. Thank you! I greet the UALSI Foundation of Sant’Anastasia; and the members of the Cesare Pozzo Mutual Aid Society. May this meeting with the Successor of Peter be an encouragement in your journey of faith and evangelical testimony.
A special greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Dear young people, Jesus calls you to be “ardent hearts”: correspond with generosity to His invitation, each one according to his talent; dear sick, offer your suffering to Christ crucified to cooperate in the redemption of the world; and you, dear newlyweds, be conscious of the irreplaceable mission to which the Sacrament of Marriage commits you.
Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 373
Reading 12 KGS 22:8-13; 23:1-3
The high priest Hilkiah informed the scribe Shaphan, “I have found the book of the law in the temple of the LORD.” Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it. Then the scribe Shaphan went to the king and reported, “Your servants have smelted down the metals available in the temple and have consigned them to the master workmen in the temple of the LORD.” The scribe Shaphan also informed the king that the priest Hilkiah had given him a book, and then read it aloud to the king. When the king heard the contents of the book of the law, he tore his garments and issued this command to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, son of Shaphan, Achbor, son of Micaiah, the scribe Shaphan, and the king’s servant Asaiah: “Go, consult the LORD for me, for the people, for all Judah, about the stipulations of this book that has been found, for the anger of the LORD has been set furiously ablaze against us, because our fathers did not obey the stipulations of this book, nor fulfill our written obligations.”
The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned together before him. The king went up to the temple of the LORD with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: priests, prophets, and all the people, small and great. He had the entire contents of the book of the covenant that had been found in the temple of the LORD, read out to them. Standing by the column, the king made a covenant before the LORD that they would follow him and observe his ordinances, statutes and decrees with their whole hearts and souls, thus reviving the terms of the covenant which were written in this book. And all the people stood as participants in the covenant.
Responsorial PsalmPS 119:33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40
R. (33a) Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord. Instruct me, O LORD, in the way of your statutes, that I may exactly observe them. R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord. Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart. R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord. Lead me in the path of your commands, for in it I delight. R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord. Incline my heart to your decrees and not to gain. R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord. Turn away my eyes from seeing what is vain: by your way give me life. R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord. Behold, I long for your precepts; in your justice give me life. R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord.
AlleluiaJN 15:4A, 5B
R. Alleluia, alleluia. Remain in me, as I remain in you, says the Lord; whoever remains in me will bear much fruit. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”