A Touch of Love

Matthew 8: 1-4
Gen.17:1,9-10,15-22 / Ps 128

Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.”
(Matthew 8:3)

God reaches out to us in our sin,
Only if we go to Him in shame;
In our penitence we are made clean,
And salvation we can now reclaim.

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, great crowds followed Him. And behold, a man with leprosy came and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the man was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a proof to them.” (Matthew 8:1-4)

Reflection

Jesus’ power to heal was always precipitated by the faith of the person seeking His help. The leper showed great faith that Jesus could easily heal him just by willing it to happen. We recall the same faith that was shown by the Roman Centurion who said to Jesus, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Lk.7:7), and the Syro-Phoenician woman who said, “Yes, but even the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs” (Mark. 7:28), meaning that all Jesus had to do was say it, and her daughter would be released from demon-possession. But instead of just willing his healing to happen, our Lord rewarded the leper’s faith by an act of compassion— Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him. In full view of the great crowds that followed Him, Jesus showed how love for the downtrodden should prevail over the Jewish laws regarding defilement. As the Son of God, touching the leper could never make Him unclean; instead, it was His touch that made the leper clean.

In everything that our Lord did, His words and actions always signified something important for His disciples to learn and to follow. In this instance, He knew that His followers would at first be shocked that He touched the leper, intentionally allowing Himself to be “defiled”. All Jews were familiar with the law handed down to Moses regarding lepers: “All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” (Lev.13:46). But by touching the leper, Jesus not only cleansed him of his disease, but showed the people that He had welcomed him back to the community, no longer to live alone, and excluded. He was no longer “outside the camp.”

Like leprosy, sin makes us excluded from the camp of God. We cannot be in the state of sin and live with a community of renewed Christians, unless one is a hopeless hypocrite. God, in His goodness, has given all His children the opportunity to be purified again, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation or penance. We must confess our sins to God’s minister, the priest, so that we can receive God’s absolution through him. Jesus said, “Go, show yourself to the priest”, and if you are penitent, God’s grace will wash away your sin.

We who have been “touched” and cleansed (or healed) by the grace of God’s Spirit and the power of His Word are in turn mandated to touch other people’s lives by our upright ways, and by the Good News that we proclaim. You can touch a soul today by being a witness for Jesus.

Like the leper in today’s Gospel, Lord, we bow down to You, and ask You to cleanse us of all our sins. Please take away all impurities from our hearts so that we may be worthy of Your great love. Amen.

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