GOD CAN DO THE UNTHINKABLE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [2 KGS 25:1-12; MT 8:1-4 ]
The first reading concludes the end of the book of Kings which covers the period of the monarchies in Israel and Judah until the end of the last king, Zedekiah. The fall of Judah came in two stages. Jehoiachin surrendered in 598 B.C. and we had the first batch of exile to Babylon. Zedekiah was the last puppet king that the Chaldeans put up as king. But he rebelled against them and in ended a most tragic death. The King of Babylon “had the sons of Zedekiah slaughtered before his eyes, then put out Zedekiah’s eyes and, loading him with chains, carried him off to Babylon.” Jerusalem was totally ransacked. The Temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses in Jerusalem were burnt down. And the final exile took place.
This is indeed a very sad history of Israel and Judah. Judah was invaded by the Babylonians three times (2 Kgs 24:1; 24:10; 25:1), just as Israel was invaded by the Assyrians three times. From a theological perspective, the destruction of Israel and Judah were the consequence of the betrayal and infidelity of the kings and the people of the covenant. God had been merciful and gave them opportunities to repent but they did not. To the last moment, Jerusalem would have been saved if King Zedekiah had only listened to Jeremiah. “Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘If you will only surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be handed over to the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand.'” (Jer 38:17f) But the king was afraid of the Judeans. So God allowed Assyria to conquer Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Judah did not learn from the lesson of Israel. When Babylon conquered Assyria and became the new world power, they attacked Jerusalem, tore down the walls and carried the inhabitants into exile in Babylon.
Yet, one would have thought that Israel would disappear as a nation from the face of the earth. What is miraculous is that Israel, compared to the many world powers in history, did not collapse and extinguished completely, unlike the other world powers. Whether it was the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks or the Romans, their empires ceased. All that is left are their statues in museums. But for the Jews, they returned after 70 years of exile. They went back and rebuild Jerusalem. Purified in their faith through the period of exile, the remnants of Israel returned to rebuild the Temple and restore the covenant. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, a descendant of King Jehoiachin and Jesus’ ancestor, the Jews slowly rebuilt Jerusalem, restored the Temple and the Walls.
Indeed, the promise of God to David that his dynasty would last forever was fulfilled especially in Christ. Israel might not have always been faithful to God but God was faithful to Israel. God promised David, “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him. But I will not take my steadfast love from him. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Sm 7:12-16) This promise was fulfilled when Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary. The angel said, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Lk 1:32f) Such is the wondrous mercy and fidelity of God to His people when they were unfaithful to Him.
In the gospel, Jesus as the Lord, the Kurios, showed Himself to be the mercy of God by doing the unthinkable. When the leper came to Jesus, he was desperate because in those days there was no cure for leprosy. Once someone contracted leprosy, it could only get worse each passing day and they were cut off from their loved ones as they could no longer stay within the community, much like those who have infectious diseases today. They were as good as dead. They were dying and could only await their end. Some of us dare not even touch those who are HIV positive, even though it is not even contagious except when there is contact between broken skin, wounds or mucous membranes or HIV-infected blood. Yet, the leper took the courage to approach Jesus. With deep humility and without demanding to be cured, he “came up and bowed low in front of him. ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘if you want to, you can cure me.'” He came with faith and trust that Jesus could cure him if He wanted to. He left it to Jesus to decide because he was aware of his nothingness.
What did Jesus do? Jesus was not contented to heal him from afar, He touched the untouchable. It went against all precautions at that time. Not only did He contaminate Himself ritually and made Himself unclean but He could have contracted leprosy. No one would dare to touch a leper, much less allow one to come close to them. That was why lepers had to shout from afar when they saw people approaching. By touching the leper, the Lord was not just healing him physically, but He was healing Him emotionally. Lepers did not just suffer the physical pain but more so the emotional distancing that caused them to lose their humanity. When we are not touched, loved or cared for, we lose our human dignity. Hence, our Lord went more than just healing him physically but He reached out to him with compassion and gave him the personal love of God and His tender touch. By so doing, the Lord was also saying to the leper that he was accepted back and that he was no longer alienated and an outcast. Indeed, the greatness of this healing miracle lies precisely in Jesus’ perceptive sensitivity to the leper’s feelings of alienation and rejection.
So the leper was healed, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It shows us the heart of Jesus. His mission was to heal us, body and soul. Jesus understands our suffering and He would heal whenever there is faith. Because without faith, there will only be physical healing and not emotional and spiritual healing. Without faith, the person will fall ill again. This was what the Lord said to the man who was sick and lying at the pool of Bethzatha at the Temple when He healed, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” (Jn 5:14) Sin is the cause of separation not just from God but from our fellowmen because sin causes division among men.
To reconcile him back to the community, Jesus, following the law of Moses, commanded the man to show himself to a priest. Jesus said, “Mind you do not tell anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest and make the offering prescribed by Moses, as evidence for them.” The law required lepers who were healed to go and see a priest for verification and to offer sacrifice for their sins. (Lev 14:1-9) Jesus knew that the man would not be healed until he was reunited with his family and community. So instead of telling others that he was healed, he had to immediately go and see the priest for confirmation and re-admittance to society. Such is God’s mercy and love. Jesus was not even concerned about receiving credit for the miracle. He was only concerned that the man was reintegrated back to his family and community.
We too must imitate the leper’s faith. We must believe that God will and can do the impossible for us in our desperate needs. But we must approach God with humility and faith in the context of prayer. This faith must be aroused through listening to the Word of God read in scriptures or heard in preaching. When faith is present, the Lord will surprise us with wonders and with His healing touch. Christ will heal us and restore us to wholeness if we are sincere in wanting to be healed, body and soul. If our faith is weak, we are just asking for the healing of the body, our prayers would not be answered effectively. We need to implore Him to heal us spiritually and emotionally so that our physical healing will last.
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.
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