Sunday, February 12, 2012

The compassion of Christ

6th Sunday OT 2012:

    In today's gospel we get an insight into the person of Jesus Christ. We see in him compassion for the suffering of the leper. There are a couple of features of today's gospel that really highlight Jesus' compassion.

    First, it says that when Jesus sees the leper he is moved with pity. Jesus is not impartial to human suffering. John Paul II once said that although God allows suffering, he does not enjoy it. God doesn't cause suffering, he didn't create suffering. He allows it but he is not impassive; rather Christ is God's response to human suffering, he overcomes suffering and death by his own passion, death, and resurrection. The word Mark uses in the gospel today is particularly powerful. Our English translation says that Jesus was moved with pity, but the Greek word says something like: Jesus' bowels shook. In other words, in the presence of suffering Jesus is moved on a very deep level.

    Second comes the exchange with the leper. Again we see the compassion of Jesus. We hear in the first reading that lepers had to dwell apart, that they had to shout unclean and that they had to keep others at a distance. Notice that Jesus is not afraid to reach out. He is not afraid to bridge the gap between himself and this leper; rather, Jesus reaches out and touches the leper with great love. Then their conversation is quite beautiful. Unfortunately, our translation limps along a little bit here. What we hear is: if you wish you can make me clean, Jesus responds I do will it, be made clean. But if we were to put it into more modern English we might translate it: If you want to, and Jesus replies: I do want to, be made clean. This is why Jesus is here: he wants to heal this man. Jesus has a great desire to restore humanity to its original purity. Jesus has a great desire to heal human suffering. He has a great desire to overcome sin and death. In fact, this desire is so strong that it causes him to reach out and touch this leper, and it is this same desire that even takes Christ to the Cross. If we ever wonder about the love and compassion of Jesus, if we are ever curious about his desire to bring healing to the world we need look no farther than the cross, which is the love Christ has for us.

    Our story in the gospel today shows us the love and compassion of Jesus, who is moved with pity at human suffering, who reaches out to touch the leper because he has a strong desire to bring health and salvation to the world. But, of course, Jesus compassion has not ended. Jesus still desires to reach out and touch each one of us. He is still moved with pity at the sight of human suffering. He wants to bring this healing to every one of us. So, I think we need to emulate this man in the gospel. The first thing we hear is that he came to Jesus, kneeled down, and begged him. What a beautiful description of the spiritual life! First, come to Jesus. Find him. Spend time with him. We know for sure he is right here in the holy Eucharist, spend time with him. Kneel down, which is an image of worship. We come here to holy Mass to worship and adore Christ. Beg him, share with him our needs and desires: Lord I need healing from sickness, weakness, sin, suffering, you name it: beg Christ to reach out and touch you. Christ literally died for you because his love is so strong, we should keep this in mind as we come into his presence to experience his love and compassion.

    Once we experience the love and compassion of Christ, it has to change us. After we approach Jesus like the leper in the story, we have to become like Christ. Paul says imitate me as I imitate Christ. This is a tall order. Here in the Eucharist Christ gives us everything, even his very body and blood. After we receive this love, we are called to imitate it. After we have been touched by Christ, it is our job to go out and touch the lives of others.

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