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Sunday, January 22, 2012
St. Jerome on the Curing of the Leper (Matthew Chapter 8)

Appropriate words for the Gospel reading for the Third Sunday after Epiphany.  These are taken from the Roman Breviary.  If you are not familiar with the story of Fr. (now saint) Damien of Molokai, please get a copy of the film showing his life and missionary work on a colony of lepers.  You can then grasp the extent of leprosy and see just how horrific of a incurable condition it was.

When the Lord was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. They were not able to follow Him when He went up. And first there came a leper. This poor creature's disease had prevented him from hearing the Saviour's long sermon on the Mount. Let it be noted that he is the first person specially named as being healed. The second was the Centurion's servant; the third was Peter's wife's mother, who was sick of a fever at Capernaum; the fourth were they who were brought unto Christ as being troubled with evil spirits, from whom He by His word cast out the evil spirits, at the same time that He healed all that were sick.

And, behold, there came a leper, and worshipped Him, saying properly after preaching and doctrine cometh occasion for a sign, that the power of the miracle might confirm in the hearers the truth of the teaching that had gone before. Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. He that prayeth the Lord to have the will, doubteth not but that He hath the power. And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying I will; be thou clean. As soon as the Lord put forth His Hand the leprosy departed. Let us remark how lowly and unbragging is the Lord's language. The leper had said, If Thou wilt; the Lord answereth, I will. The leper, Thou canst make me clean, the Lord, Be thou clean. Most Latin readers, misled by the identity of form in that language between the Present Infinitive Active and the Second Person Singular Present Imperative Passive of the Verb, read Christ's answer as if it were, I will to make thee clean. This is wrong. The sentences are separate. First cometh the expression of volition, I will, then the command, Be thou clean.

And Jesus saith unto him See thou tell no man. What need was there to tell what his body showed? But go thy way, show thyself to the Priest. There were divers reasons why Christ should send him to the Priest. First, for humility's sake, that He might show reverence to God's Priest. Then there was a command in the law that they that were cleansed of leprosy should make an offering to the Priests. Moreover, that, when the Priests saw the leper cleansed, they might either believe in the Saviour, or refuse to believe; if they believed, that they might be saved, and, if they believed not, that they might have no excuse. Lastly, that He might give no ground for the accusation that was so often brought against Him, that He was unobservant of the law.

- From the Roman Breviary (Divino Afflatu)


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