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_*“Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” (Matthew 8:2)*_

While today’s first reading tells the sad tale of King Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of Jerusalem, our Gospel passage presents a comforting story of God’s mercy and love in healing the leper. What lessons do these readings convey?

– Do not approach God with a sense of entitlement. Humble yourself when you pray: The leper pleaded: “If you will (if you want to), you can make me clean.” Was this Zedekiah’s attitude in today’s first reading? Rather than go to God like King Hezekiah, Zedekiah tried to escape from the city at night.

– Place your trust in God and not in people. Another mistake Hezekiah made was assuming that his army would protect him. “The army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him.” (2 Kings 25:5). People tend to disappoint when we need them. This is why we must seek protection from God.

– Never forget God when your life is rosy. The psalmist sings: “Let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not.” The question is – why did they forget God in the first place? Why did they worship false gods? Like the Israelites, we are fond of asking, “Where is God?” in crisis, but while enjoying peace and success, we say: “Who is God?” Whenever we forget God and start trusting in ourselves (our connections, riches, security mechanisms, etc.), God shows us that we are dust.

– Notably, the miracle in today’s Gospel passage happened as soon as Jesus came down from the mountain. Going through the entire Gospels, we find this pattern: first, the Word, then the miracles. Listening to Jesus preach fired up the leper’s faith. There is great power in God’s word. We cannot survive without it. This is why Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of God’s mouth.”

– Allow yourself to be touched by Jesus. Jesus said to the leper, “Of course I want to! Be cured!” It was taboo to touch a leper, but by so doing, Jesus took his leprosy upon himself. This is exactly what Jesus does for us. Isaiah says: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). How do we allow Jesus to touch us? By keeping His commandments and walking along the path He chose for us. To be touched by Jesus, we must move from hearers to doers of God.

– Today, we remember St. Irenaeus. He was born in Smyrna, Asia Minor (now Izmir, Turkey), and emigrated to Lyons, France, where he eventually became the bishop. It is not known for certain whether he was martyred or died a natural death. Whenever we take up a Bible, we touch Irenaeus’s work, for he played a decisive role in fixing the canon of the New Testament. He was one of those who selected which book would be placed in the Bible and which would not. The Bible did not fall from heaven as a complete book.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, touch us from the depths of our spirits and let your healing power flow. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

Bible Study: 2 Kings 25:1-12, Ps. 137:1-6, Matthew 8:1-4).*

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu

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