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Free Us from Sin
Friday after Epiphany
It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately. Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.
Opening Prayer: My God, I give you thanks for the Holy Catholic Church, your body on earth, of which you are the head. Through the Church, I can know your Truth. I thank you for the gift of the Eucharist, where I can encounter your Real Presence both in Communion and Adoration. I thank you for your presence in Scripture. Lord, in all these ways I can see your desire to make yourself known to me and to draw me to yourself. As I place myself in your presence for this moment of prayer, I ask you to open my ears so that I may hear you speak and to open my eyes so that I may see my life through your eyes.
- You Can Make Me Clean: Leprosy not only caused physical suffering, disfigurement, and even death, it also separated an individual from society—both general society and the religious community. Thus a leper was cut off from human contact and relationships even in his great physical need. In this story, a leper risked coming into town to plead with Jesus for healing. He knew that Jesus was his only chance of both physical health and restoration to his community. In a similar way, sin affects us personally, weakening our practice of virtue and separating us from God and others. We need healing and restoration. The sacrament of Reconciliation not only forgives sin, but it “reconciles us with the Church,” repairing and restoring fraternal communion. (CCC 1469). In the same paragraph, the Catechism speaks of our being “reestablished or strengthened in the communion of saints” and being “made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods” within members of the Body of Christ.
- I Do Will It: There was no question about Jesus’ desire to heal the leper. He didn’t hesitate but stretched out his hand and touched the leper, saying, “I do will it; be made clean.” As a result of original sin, each of us is subject to concupiscence (the inclination to sin). When we commit what seem to be minor sins, it can be tempting to think, “It’s just a little thing” or “It’s not a mortal sin.” However, even venial sin disfigures the image of God within us. Venial sin “impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of moral good…(and) disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin” (CCC 1863). We need to approach Jesus in the healing sacrament of Reconciliation where he can touch and heal us and reconcile us with the community of the Church.
- Go Show Yourself to the Priest: A student once challenged a theology professor about the need for the sacrament of Reconciliation, stating his belief that individuals could just ask Jesus for forgiveness in prayer. The professor asked the young man, “Don’t you think each person deserves a personal encounter with Jesus?” In Reconciliation, we really and truly encounter Christ himself through the priest. Not only are we forgiven, but we are healed and strengthened in this encounter of grace. Regular confession is a means to “form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ, and progress in the life of the Spirit” (CCC 1458).
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I trust in your mercy. You see my brokenness and sin. You know where I need your healing grace, and you are so ready to touch me and heal me. Why then do I hesitate to seek you out in the sacrament of Reconciliation? Is it human respect, worrying what the priest may think of me? Is it pride and self-justification? Lord, I ask you to give me the desire to make regular Reconciliation a habit in my life. Help me experience this sacrament as an encounter with your merciful, forgiving love.
Resolution: In the Catechism, we are told, “The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced” (CCC 1432). Lord, today by your grace I will place myself before a crucifix and will reflect on this paragraph: “The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him. ‘Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored.’ God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced.”
For Further Reflection: Watch one or both of these videos by Fr. Mike Schmitz.
Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Masters of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.