Once upon a time I was talking with a woman who had been recently diagnosed with cancer.
She told me that her son had come to the hospital and was completely devastated.
In a moment of frustration and anger he said,
“Why did God give you this horrible disease?”
His Mom looked at him with love and said
“Honey, God doesn’t give people cancer, cancer comes from all of the man made chemicals and pollution in our world.”
It’s easy to see how her son thought that God had given his mother cancer.
The people of Jesus’ time were also convinced that sickness was some kind punishment from God.
They believed that either the person who was sick or someone in their family had done something wrong and their illness was a punishment from God.
Many believed that sickness was God’s way of getting even.
Over and over again in the Gospels Jesus fought this way of thinking.
The sick man in the today’s Gospel was an exceptional person with a horrible disease.
Leprosy has always been a frightening disease it disfigures and isolates a person in so many ways.
For centuries people who suffered with leprosy were driven from their families and lived in lonely isolation.
They were forced to shout unclean unclean when anyone was close.
They were never allowed to touch another person again.
Sometimes the people in the family or village celebrated the sick person’s funeral as if to say your are already dead to them.
Many people burdened with this level of suffering and isolation sank into madness or despair.
Can you imagine seeing your own funeral ?
Yes this man was exceptional because he man did not give up.
Somehow he heard about Jesus and His power to heal and he believed.
When he was finally able to speak to Jesus his request simple and direct.
"If you wish you can heal me," he said.
It was because of his faith, because he dared to believe that he was healed.
That simple request was also a profound profession of faith.
When the leprous man asked Jesus to heal him he was professing his conviction that Jesus did indeed have divine power.
This man’s healing wasn’t only a physical healing it was much more.
When he was healed he was able return to his home and family and hug and touch the people he loved.
The reason Jesus asked him to go to the priests was so that they could certify that he had indeed been healed could return home.
It is important for us to understand that God doesn’t punish people will an illness.
Sometimes we get sick because of poor choices we make.
Sometimes we get sick because our bodies just wear out like anything else.
Sometimes we get an infection or come into contact with something that his harmful to us.
When sickness comes to us or someone we love we need to react like the man in the Gospel.
We need to react with faith.
We need to profess our belief that God can and will heal us.
Sometimes God will heal us physically.
Sometimes He will heal us spiritually and simply give us all the grace we need to carry the burden of sickness.
Sometimes we will simply be given the beautiful consolation of a holy and peaceful death.
Whatever the case may be, we will always be better off if we can face sickness with faith rather than anger, bitterness and despair.
This week we buried 3 beautiful people from our parish and because of their faith each one of them faced death without any fear at all.
Once when I my Mom had a heart attack I sat by her in the hospital and after a long time worked up the courage to ask her if she was afraid to die.
Her response was simple and inspiring “O Rob put that out of your mind I know God loves me.
When we or someone we love faces illness or suffering may we hold on to our faith like the man into day’s Gospel.
May our prayer be simple and direct like his was.
If you want to you can heal Lord.