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We’ve All Got the Disease

First Reading: Hebrews 3:7-14

The Holy Spirit says:
Oh, that today you would hear his voice,
“Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion
in the day of testing in the desert,
where your ancestors tested and tried me
and saw my works for forty years.
Because of this I was provoked with that generation
and I said, ‘They have always been of erring heart,
and they do not know my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter into my rest.'”
Take care, brothers and sisters,
that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart,
so as to forsake the living God.
Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,”
so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.
We have become partners of Christ
if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95:6-7C, 8-9, 10-11

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Forty years I was wearied of that generation;
I said: “This people’s heart goes astray,
they do not know my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my anger:
“They shall never enter my rest.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

NAB

In Biblical times leprosy was a disease that had no cure. And more than that, it was a disease that, according to Jewish law, made a person unclean. This uncleanness was considered to be contagious and for this reason lepers were quarantined from those that were “clean.” A leper was an outcast of society, separated from the community of family and friends, and excluded from the liturgical practices of the temple, which was where the presence of God dwelt. The life of a leper in those days was one of utter loneliness, literally cut off from the presence of God.

Because of the medical advancements of our day it may be hard to imagine taking such extreme measures about an illness. We’ve found a cure for leprosy; it’s not nearly as devastating as it was in Jesus’ day. But there is another disease that we all suffer from. It’s the disease of sin, of which we are made subject to by our fallen nature. And just like leprosy, the disease of sin, if serious enough, can drive a wedge between us and our family and friends. It can damage our relationship with God to the point of cutting us off from Him completely.

This disease of the soul is much more serious than any bodily disease could ever be. But thankfully, we have a cure—the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus is so eager to give.

Take a look at this Gospel passage again, but this time substitute the word “sinner” for “leper.”

A [sinner] came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the [sinner], and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”

What a beautiful image of the Divine Physician in action. It doesn’t matter what sins you carry, or how long you’ve suffered from them, He longs to heal your soul. Are you ready to let Him?

The refrain we hear in Psalm 95 is: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” What is threatening to harden your heart? What is He saying to you instead? How will you respond?

photo credit

Anna Coyne is a Saint Paul native, wife, mother, and convert to the Catholic faith. When not chasing after her two young children you can probably find her teaching piano lessons, knitting, tripping over wooden train sets, or writing. Find out more about her here.

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