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THURSDAY HOMILY: If You Wish, You Can Make Me Clean!

By Deacon Keith Fournier
January 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Suffering can bear fruit within us and around us if we bring it to the suffering Servant. This is part of what is meant by the mystery of suffering in Christian teaching. Saint Jose Maria Escriva wrote "The great Christian revolution has been to convert pain into fruitful suffering and to turn a bad thing into something good. We have deprived the devil of this weapon; and with it we can conquer eternity."

CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - During the first week of Ordinary time we hear of the healing ministry of the Lord Jesus as recorded by St. Mark. Yesterday, we heard of the healing of Peter's mother in law and the liberation of those possessed by evil. The account ended with Jesus, rising early to pray and being told by Simon, "Everyone is looking for you." (Mk. 1:29-39)

Everyone is still looking for Jesus. And Jesus still heals.

In today's Gospel passage we meet the leper who kneels before Jesus and says "If you wish, you can make me clean." The account continues, "Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean." (Mk. 1:40-45)

In these accounts we witness the reality, the fact, of suffering. More importantly, we see the response of those who know how to bring it to Jesus.  The author of the letter to the Hebrews reminded us "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin." (Hebrews 14:15)

Suffering can bear fruit within us and around us if we bring it to the suffering Servant. This is part of what is meant by the mystery of suffering in Christian teaching. Saint Jose Maria Escriva wrote "The great Christian revolution has been to convert pain into fruitful suffering and to turn a bad thing into something good. We have deprived the devil of this weapon; and with it we can conquer eternity."

I have been dealing with my own weakness and faults a lot these days. I have discovered that the older I get the less I know and the more imperfections I discover in myself. As a younger man, I labored under a misconception that living the Christian life would somehow get easier as I "figured it out". Well, nothing could be further from the truth.

There is, in fact, a reverse reality at work in life. I am more and more aware of my own weaknesses and have only just begun to understand the admission of St. Paul to the young disciple Timothy that he was "the chief among sinners"(1 Tim. 1:15). This honest admission of Paul did not reflect some kind of poor self image. To the contrary, it revealed the mature self awareness and humility of a Christian who had come to understand why we call God's redemptive work in our lives amazing grace.

The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Corinth: "we hold this treasure in earthen vessels (so) that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body." (2 Corinthians 4: 5-11)

The Lord has made our weakness and frailties a path to a deepening relationship with Him. They can be a door to progress in our baptismal call to holiness. We constantly need a Savior precisely because we are earthen Vessels. The process of being emptied of self and filled with His life happens by grace but requires our continual response, our cooperation, with His loving plan.

Francis DeSales (1567-1610), a great western saint and pastor of souls, once wrote in a letter to one of the many who sought his holy counsel "God wants your misery to be the throne of His mercy. He desires that your powerlessness be the seat of His omnipotence."

So it is with us. The reality of our frail human nature is that we are weak and the struggles we face in our daily lives do not necessarily lessen as we age. We fall and we fail. The Good News is that the Lord is always there, ready to forgive, to heal and to help us to get back up and, with the help of His grace, begin again and again and again.

In another letter to a pilgrim seeking his spiritual counsel, Francis DeSales wrote: "Be patient with the whole world, but, above all with yourself. I want to tell you not to lose your serenity because of your imperfections, and always to have the zest to raise yourself up. It gives me joy to see each day you begin again. There is no better way to finish life well than to return to the starting point always and not ever to think that we have done enough".

This is still sage advice for all of who understand the truth St Paul addressed in his letter to the Corinthians. We hold this treasure of God's life within us, in earthen vessels. No matter what our affliction, the Lord still speaks the words He spoke to the Leper when we kneel in humility before Him and ask to be healed. If we make the words of the leper our own, "If you wish, you can make me clean" we will hear, "I do will it. Be made clean."

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