FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK
There is little doubt that the leper in today’s gospel had a deep respect for Jesus. Who would not honor someone who healed them of leprosy? But if this is the case, how do we explain the obvious disobedience of the leper to Jesus’ command? Jesus says, “See to it that you tell no one anything.” Yet this man immediately goes out and publicizes everything that had happened, speaking to everyone. How do we explain that this man ignored Jesus’ desire to keep things quiet?
The simplest explanation is that there are some secrets that cannot be kept. There are some blessings too wonderful to hold in. In other words, this story of the leper is a story of the power of joy.
When the man sees that his leprosy is removed, when he realizes that he is again made whole, the joy of his healing consumes him. He cannot do anything but proclaim it to everyone he meets-regardless of what Jesus has commanded him. His proclamation has a tremendous effect. Hundreds of people start coming to Jesus so that Jesus can no longer enter into the towns openly. People are persuaded that what this former leper said was true not simply by the argumentation of his words, but by the authority of his joy. They could see in the brightness of his eye, in the enthusiasm of his presence, the promise that if they too went to Jesus, they too could encounter the love of God.
So, the leper in today’s gospel is a model for us. All too often, our lives lack the power of joy. We know our faith. We can recite the creed. We come to mass. We believe in God’s existence. Yet how many people can see in us the joy of God’s presence or the enthusiasm of belonging to Christ? Do people see in our lives the energy of the good news, or do we appear much like everyone else, including those who do not believe in God at all.
The power of joy is important because it has the authority to change the human heart. The possession of that joy is not only important for the sake of others-so they can see Christ in us-it is also important for us. We need joy in order to claim the blessings that God has given us.
There is an ancient rabbinic teaching that describes the last judgment at the end of time. According to this rabbinic teaching, every person will stand before God, the judge. In that moment God will lay before each person all of the blessings that he or she has received and then say, “How many of these blessings did you enjoy, and how many did you ignore?” According to this ancient rabbinic wisdom, our very salvation depends upon our openness to enjoy the blessings that God has given us.
You know that this is true. We all know people who have everything, who are blessed in every way, and yet they are not happy. They cannot connect their lives to the power of joy. These people do not need to wait for the judgment on the last day- they are already condemned. Already, they are lost.
So, the example of the leper in today’s gospel is an example we should follow. He was so filled with of the joy of what God did for him that he could not keep silent. It is unlikely that there is anyone here who has been cured of leprosy, but every one of us has blessings in which we can rejoice. All of us have life, some of us have health, and some of us have the love and respect of family and friends. Some of us have jobs that we enjoy, accomplishments that we can be proud of, and financial resources that give us options which many other people do not have.
What is important here is not simply to have these blessings, but to find joy in them. Joy gives us power. When we are people of joy, we have the power to be generous, the power to forgive, the power to serve, and the power to live. But, if we lack the power of joy, what will be speechless before God on the last day. Without joy, our faith is empty-not only as a witness to others but even for ourselves.
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