The 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time
First Reading: Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11
Second Reading: St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Gospel: According to St. Mark 1:40-45
There is a necessary and beautiful relationship between humility and trust. This is nowhere made more clear than in the inner workings of the human family. When a young child, while holding up a broken toy that needs fixing, looks into a parent’s eyes there is in that gesture both a boundless trust and a truly genuine humility. Those eyes speak volumes and would move any parent to do whatever is necessary to fix that toy.
When the leper approached Jesus and said, “If You wish, You can make me clean,” his words embody that same childlike humility and trust. To bring attention to such an affliction, one that separated its sufferers from all normal social contact, was such an heroic act of humility and trust that it moved Jesus to reach out, touch the leper, and say, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
There is an incredible vulnerability in this leper’s words. Jesus could have said, “I do not will it. Remain leprous.” What of the countless millions who for the past two thousand years have prayed for a medical miracle for themselves or a loved one and have received the answer of “I do not will it”? Their humility and trust matched the leper, yet Jesus told them, “No.” What are we to make of this negative reply from the all-loving God?
Is it simply that God plays favorites? Or, does God only have the power to grant the wishes of some who ask? Or, maybe worst of all, does God see people as pawns on a chessboard or as subjects in a cosmic experiment? Anyone whose humble and trusting prayer for a miraculous cure or deliverance from pain and suffering went unanswered could hardly be blamed for concluding “yes” to any or all of these three questions.
Fortunately, there is one situation that can clarify our thoughts on this most important issue, and it is the one where Jesus petitioned, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me” during the agony in the garden. That cup was not withdrawn, and Jesus was called upon to drink it to the dregs. By not granting Jesus’ prayer was the Father playing favorites? Did He not have the power? Was Jesus a pawn on a chessboard or a subject in an experiment?
If we are to answer “No” to these questions, then we must find the key that unlocks this puzzle of God’s granting on the one hand the request of a simple leper while on the other hand denying that of His beloved Son. The key, ultimately, is not in the request itself, but in the context. What can get lost in these and all other prayers of petition is the phrase “if You wish” or, in the case of Jesus in Gethsemane, “if You are willing.” Jesus even goes so far as to vocalize what the leper only hinted at: “still, not My will but Yours be done.”
God’s will is an expression not only of His omniscience, but also of His perfection. Sometimes our requests align with His will and we, without knowing it, ask for that which fits God’s perfect plan. Unfortunately, most of the time we ask for things that fit our will and not God’s, and this can be difficult to accept, especially when we ask for the healing of those we love or for the lifting of their heaviest burdens.
In those difficult moments we are called to be like children, and with humility and trust offer over to our Father the broken lives of those we love. Once in a while it will be His wish to make them like new, but more often than not the cup will remain. Yet, fortunately, we not only have the experience of Jesus on Holy Thursday, but we also have that of Jesus on Easter Sunday – an experience that reminds us that despite the fact that God’s plan might not include fixing what is broken in this world, it always includes making it new in the next.