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Getting Closer With Jesus Who Wishes to Be Closest with Us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week VI-B, 11 February 2018
Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46///1Corinthians 10:31-11:1///Mark 1:40-45

Perhaps due to the approaching Valentine’s day, I have been hearing “over and over” during prayers this week Roberta Flack’s 1978 hit with Donny Hathaway, “The closer I get to you/The more you make me see/ By giving me all you got/Your love has captured me.//Over and over again/I tried to tell myself that we/Could never be more than friends/And all the while inside I knew it was real/The way you make me feel.” It is a very lovely song because it is very true: people who love always get closer with one they love. This is also the touching story, literally and figuratively speaking, behind today’s gospel in the healing of a leper by Jesus.

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 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. (Mk.1:40- 42)

Last Sunday we reflected how Jesus would always “approach us, grasp our hands, and raise us up” like with the sick mother-in-law of Simon. It was a story of Jesus getting nearer to us every day, inviting us to go farther with Him in proclaiming the gospel. Today, the gospel is inviting us to get closer to Jesus who also wishes to be closer with us. Let us first reflect on the opening sentence of St. Mark, A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”

In the first reading we have heard how God had commanded the Israelites that those sick with leprosy or any similar diseases are supposed to live separately from the community for “He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”(Lev.13:46) It was a quarantine measure to prevent the spread of communicable diseases but later evolved to ostracizing sinners from the less sinful. Like AIDS today, people always equated mysterious diseases with no cure and disfiguring appearances as punishment for grave sins. Here we find again our constricted view on God punishing and banishing the sick considered as sinners from everybody else including Himself. A lot often some people ask me if they could “temporarily separate” from church celebrations and activities while they sort things out within themselves like sins and misgivings, failures and spats with others. “Alis muna po ako Father habang inaayos ko po sarili ko” is what they always say. Like lepers, they feel unworthy of being near God and others. Instead of getting closer, they go apart from us and from God. But how can we really straighten things out in ourselves if we would keep on bending and hiding inside?

Get closer to Jesus! Whenever we go to confession, Jesus is so filled with joy because He had long been waiting for us to come to Him. He misses us so much, waiting for us to finally come to Him in confession and the Holy Eucharist. Imagine how much effort that leper must have exerted to come so close with Jesus? He must have had totally disregarded the rules for lepers to cry out “Unclean! Unclean!”(Lev.13: 45) in his desire to request healing from Jesus. Moreover, he must have been so resolved to get nearer to Jesus that nobody around then could prevent him from getting closer with the crowd and the Lord.

How funny that many among us make the silly excuse of skipping Masses just because people are looking or talking about them! It is more about our love and passion to be with Jesus, an intense longing for the Lord with whom we say with conviction, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Sometimes, we really have to reach that point in our lives when we are so deep in sins and sufferings that we move heaven and earth to get closer with Jesus because only Him who could raise us up. And the good news is, no one who had tried so hard to get close to Jesus had ever been turned down by Him: Moved with pity, he stretched 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.

Jesus being moved with pity is more than a feeling of being touched in the heart but of being “stirred to promptly act” which the word “misericordia” or mercy means. To be moved with pity is “compassion with passion”. Compassion is oneness or communion in suffering (cum patior); sprinkle this with some passion, it then becomes the Lord suffering with us in the truest sense! Parents know this very well, of how they suffer with their children when they are sick or when they have failed, of how they share in the pains and hurts of being duped or dumped by a beloved. To be moved with pity is “compassion with passion” when we feel crying along, suffering along with a friend or a loved one because we do feel their pain, because we have always been one with them in everything. In healing the leper, we find the deep and immense love of Jesus for us all, especially those stricken with the worst afflictions in life, that He is so pained inside that our wish is also His wish! As the psalmist would sing, God does not delight in our sufferings and trials. This is the reason why Jesus became human: God cannot suffer because He is perfect; hence, Jesus became man to suffer with us, to console us. The word consolation is from the Latin “cum” or with and “solation” or another; hence, to console is to be with somebody feeling alone so that he/she would no longer be alone and have company. What a great company and companion we have in Jesus who feels what we feel and desires what we desire too!

Last Sunday, Jesus approached, grasped and raised the mother-in-law of Simon; today, Jesus spoke of His closeness with the leper by stretching his hand and touching him while saying “I do will it.” Beautiful! The closer we get to Jesus, the closer He also get to us! He could have just said “be healed” but Jesus accompanied His words with actions that express closeness. On Wednesday we shall start the Season of Lent when we are invited to get closer with God and with others in love and mercy. Today’s account of the healing of a leper invites us through St. Paul to imitate not only the leper in getting closer with Jesus but to be like Jesus who became one in suffering with those with worst afflictions and situations. Amen.

Fr.Nicanor F. LalogII,
Parokya Ng SanJuan Apostol At Ebanghelista,
Gov.F.HaliliAve., Bagbaguin, Sta.Maria, Bulacan3022