“If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

The readings for today and those appointed for the previous two Sundays call our attention to the healing ministry of Jesus. In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus healed many who had various diseases and he drove demons. In today’s Gospel he heals a leper who cries, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Lepers were considered unclean and treated as outcasts; a stigma was attached to them. One can hear the desperation of this leper, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

The cry of this leper touched Jesus, moved with compassion he said to the leper, “I am willing, be clean.” The Gospels are replete with stories of healing. Jesus healed lepers, he restored sight to blind people, he made the dumb speak, the lame walked and people possessed by demons were healed. One cannot read the Gospels without encountering our Lord performing miracles of healing.

Throughout his ministry Jesus met persons whose bodies and minds were being destroyed by disease and mental illness. On these various occasions he had compassion on the afflicted persons and healed them. By so doing he gave them a new lease of life.

Sickness and disease have always been part of the human experience. Sickness is a phenomenon we do not always understand. In many instances it does not make sense and we are impotent when it affects us and loved ones. In discussion the problem of disease and sickness we often ask, “What purpose does it serve?” In some cases we make ourselves sick by not taking care of our bodies, but in most instances we have no control over sickness and disease.  The body becomes diseased and we do not enjoy good health.

Sickness is a manifestation of evil in the world. It is not part of God’s plan for the human race. God does not make people sick. It is God’s will and desire that we enjoy good health and live productive lives. God allows sickness but he does not ordain it. He allows nature to take its course and in the prevailing circumstance he does what is best for us. When we are sick we cannot blame God for our condition. God does not make us sick.

Sickness is not a punishment from God. Some people see sickness as God’s way of punishing sinners.  This is not true. It is totally untrue and cannot be supported by scriptural evidence, this belief cannot be encouraged. Sickness is not a punishment from God for sins. I am sure you can recall the story of the man born blind in St. John’s Gospel. The disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents…. But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” In other words Jesus was saying that the man’s blindness had nothing to do with his sins, but it provided an opportunity for the glory of God to be revealed. From time to time all, of us will become sick, but it must not be seen as a punishment from God.

Since God does not make us sick and because sickness is not a punishment from God we must not feel ashamed when we or family members become sick. It is amazing the number of persons who have a feeling of shame and guilt when they are sick. Many of these persons tell lies to conceal the nature of their sickness. There is no need to feel ashamed when we are sick, be it cancer, HIV/AIDS, lupus, diabetes, renal problems or any other complaint that may affect us or loved ones. Tell it to your priests, family and friends so that they can pray for your specific complaint and not intercede in a vacuum. Talk about the nature of your complaint so that you can be at peace with yourself and aid the process of healing. And we must never rejoice at people’s illness.

Whenever we are sick we must endure its pain and discomfort with fortitude. Our faith in times of sickness serves as an inspiration to others. Our faith in God can be strengthened as we stand at the bedside of a loved one who in his or her pain witnesses to the love and mercy of God. God will not allow us to suffer more than we can bear. In the midst of all suffering we have the assurance from Holy Scripture that we do not suffer alone. Our suffering complements Christ’s suffering. Because of this truth we cannot from a Christian perspective support euthanasia sometimes called mercy killing.

We must not lose hope when sickness comes. Ironically, God can use it for good. In times of sickness we ought to pray for healing, it is God’s wish that we should enjoy good health. But we cannot dictate to God the process of healing. He continues his work of healing through the ministry of doctors and nurses, the sacrament of Holy Unction and the prayers of the church. Sometimes the person for whom we have been praying dies and we come to the conclusion that our prayers were not answered. But death is one way of healing. Death is painful but at times it is the only way we can be healed. It releases our diseased body from its pain and discomfort, and gives us rest.

Sickness is not a part of God’s agenda for his people. Sickness is part of the evil that characterises this world. Some day God’s kingdom will be established and sickness will be no more. For the time being we have to accept its existence and live with the hope that someday it will be no more. Disease is a real experience; it is not an illusion of the mind, as some would want us to believe. Cancer, diabetes, hypertension, lupus, cardiac problems, strokes, mental illness, these and many more are real experiences that affect us from time to time. But we live in hope because we know that some day God will intervene and our bodies will no longer be subject to disease and destruction.

In the Book of Revelation it is described as a new day when all things will be made new.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."


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