Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

February 16, 2003
Lev 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Cor 10:31 - 1:1
Mk 1:40-45

The Secure Seeker

In the course of a year a parish priest hears a lot of heart rending stories from the really poor who can tell their story honestly, and from the still poorer who can no longer even trust the truth to tell their story. Richard, was the king of all the con men I experienced in twenty years. He would come along with a story of repentance; yes, he had failed and failed again; but now he had the resolve to change forever and he had the plan by which he could become a model father and citizen. All he needed was a little capital, and you were the only person in the world who could give it to him. He made you feel that the sin of Judas would be a little thing compared to turning down this opportunity to liberate him for ever. As he built up his case, for the fourth convincing time, I would find my insides resisting the pressure he was putting on, my mind admired his ingenuity and skill, and my heard could hear the fear and insecurity that drove him.

Insecurity and fear drive us to pressure each other in all sorts of ways. Because of fear, spouses pressure spouses and their children; children too pressure parents. That is what makes the prayer of the leper in today's Gospel so remarkable. "Lord, if you so will, you can make me clean?" He was a help seeker and yet so secure. His prayer was like that of Jesus himself in the garden: "Father, would that this chalice would pass from me but not my will but yours be done." There is a human cry for relief but there is a deeper hope in the goodness of a loving and caring Father God. Henri Nouwen in The Wounded Healer says that the important thing about prayer is not whether it is classified as petition, thanksgiving or praise, but whether it is a prayer of hope or of little faith.

When we live with hope we do not get tangled up with concern for how our wishes will be fulfilled. For the prayer of hope it is essential that there are no guarantees asked, no conditions posed and no proofs demanded. When you pray with hope you turn yourself towards a God who can be trusted wholeheartedly and unconditionally. It is enough to know that God is a faithful God. The prayer of little faith, on the other hand, is filled with wishes which beg for immediate fulfillment. With this prayer of little faith it is the concreteness of the wishes which eliminates the possibility for hope. The spiritual life is reduced to making a bee line for what you want. Because we want fearfully to control our own future, we close ourselves off from what might be coming.

While the leper got the first part right, he came to Jesus with the right attitude, he did not get it right when he left Jesus. Jesus told him not to tell anybody about what happened but he went and told everybody. In the Gospels we often find Jesus apprehensive about healing. He refuses to work miracles to show off his power. He tells those healed not to tell any one else (Mk 7:33; 8:23; 9:25.) He does not want people to be coming to him because he heals or feeds the body. He wants people to come to him out of faith and love. Faith is a security that transcends signs. "Blessed are those who have not seen and who have believed."

This whole area of miracles and visions is one of major pastoral importance. The question is not so much if these things happen, but how helpful is it for Christian maturing that a lot of spirituality is directed towards bringing about extraordinary intervention or inducing special powers. The remarkable thing about Jesus was not that he worked miracles, but his "Abba relationship," that he was in such a total and secure relationship with the Father. He was faithful to the Father and sought to do his will not only when things were going well but also when they were going badly. He was ever trying to find truth and reality and willing to face up to it. Is true prayer for healing? I think it is for even more than that. Real healing is to be secure enough to go beyond the desire for healing, just as real wealth is to be beyond the desire for wealth.

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Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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