ONLY JESUS CAN TRANSFORM OUR HEARTS AND HEAL OUR SINFUL CONDITION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HEB 3:7-14; MK 1:40-45 ]
In the first reading, we read what the Holy Spirit says: “If only you would listen to him today; do not harden your hearts, as happened in the Rebellion, on the Day of Temptation in the wilderness.”
Indeed, we know very well that if we want to find peace and rest, we need to listen to the voice of the Lord, as the responsorial psalm tells us. If not, the words of God spoken to the Israelites would also apply to us, “That was why I was angry with that generation and said: How unreliable these people who refuse to grasp my ways! And so, in anger, I swore that not one would reach the place of rest I had for them.” Without a doubt, we will suffer the same fate and hurt ourselves by failing to listen to the voice of the Lord, testing us in spite of the fact that like the Israelites, we had seen what the Lord has done for us all these years.
In the light of today’s readings, many of us would have made some New Year resolutions regarding our lifestyle. But perhaps, many of these resolutions would have been broken already. We could become discouraged in our fight over sin and our weaknesses. If ordinary resolutions like waking up early, eating less or working out more could not be kept by us, how much less still can we keep resolutions in being faithful to our prayer life or freeing ourselves from some sinful habits!
But lest we become discouraged and give up in total despair, today, the gospel is very consoling for those of us who have tried and failed. The gospel tells us that it is not by our strength that we can, in the final analysis, overcome our sins. We can only conquer our sins through the healing grace of Jesus. Why? Because, in the first place, many of our sins are deeply rooted in us, in our mind and unconscious. Many of us commit repetitive sins and we lack control over them e.g. anger, lust, greed and impatience. Our healing must begin from the root. How then can we be healed from the core of our being?
We must come to Jesus. In the gospel, we have the leper who is a symbol of what sin could do to a person. He was totally infested with sin. He was cut off from everyone. Yet, the leper in his sinfulness did not fall into despair. He knew he needed help. At the same time, he knew that by himself alone, there was no way he could be healed. So he approached Jesus for he knew that only Jesus could restore him to wholeness. That he took that step to ask Jesus for help was already an act of grace. For we know that lepers were outcasts. They were forbidden to go near to people. They were as good as dead and ostracized. In fact, it would be a crime to go near to people, much more if that person were a rabbi. Yet he went to Jesus with confidence, saying, “if you want to, you can cure me”.
Similarly, Jesus showed Himself to be truly the mercy and compassion of God in wanting to heal us. Just as it was prohibited for the leper to approach Jesus, it would equally be against Jewish law for Jesus to go near or touch a leper. Not only would He be contaminated ritually but because leprosy was so contagious a disease, Jesus could be infected as well. Yet, we are told that Jesus “feeling sorry for him” stretched His hand to touch him and said, “Of course I want to! Be cured!” Yes, we must come to Jesus for healing. We can be confident of finding mercy and healing from Jesus. We are told that “the leprosy left him at once and he was cured.” Again, the first reading exhorts us, “Take care, brothers that there is not in anyone of your community a wicked mind, so unbelieving as to turn way from the living God.”
At the same time, we must not behave like lepers, cut off from the Christian community of faith. The author of Hebrews invites us that “everyday, as long as this ‘today” lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin.” Yes, we must stay with the community of faith lest we sin because of our weakness. Through the faith of the Christian community, we will be able to encourage each other in our spiritual battle against sin. In this way, “we shall remain co-heirs with Christ only if we keep a grasp on our first confidence right to the end.”
Then, like the leper, we will also announce to others how Jesus healed us. For when we encounter the mercy of God, we cannot but proclaim to the world the healing grace of God. Faith is never something that we can keep to ourselves. But having been healed ourselves, we will help the rest of the world to be reconciled with God and be healed. All of us are lepers in some ways and need to be restored to wholeness.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.