by Fr. Justin Ramos, O.Praem.
There is probably very few, if any of us, who can imagine what it’s like to have leprosy. You don’t have to be a doctor, however, to know that it must be a horrendous disease to have. It’s so bad, that, in the time of our Lord, if you had it, you were a social outcast. You literally were not allowed to live among others; and this was actually prescribed by the Law of Moses—not out of cruelty, but out of love for the common good, since it is highly contagious and deadly. If you had leprosy, your life was pretty much over. There was no hope. Period.
So, this makes it all the more admirable, to say the least, to hear the lepers in the Gospel approach Jesus with such great hope— with faith, hope, and love. Not only did they approach Him and ask to be healed; He did not heal them right there and then; He told them to go see the priests, and they immediately obeyed Him, and then were healed. That’s a whole lot of trust in the Lord. Who knows for how long they had already had this horrible disease, for how many years they had already lived as outcasts from the community—friends, relatives…all had pretty much abandoned them. Yet, they had the trust, the supernatural hope in Christ that He would take care of them; and He did.
Let’s admit it: things right now can seem absolutely hopeless. Mother Church seems to have been inflicted with a disease, a corruption, that has run rampant, and leaves us with seemingly no hope of ever recovering. Indeed, it makes leprosy look like a walk in the park. We are all members of the same Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. And even though none of us here are guilty of the corruption we hear about in the news these days (thanks be to God) we are all suffering because of it. In response we can do one of two things: we can fall into despair, give up completely, become bitter at God and everyone else, and leave the Church (like Martin Luther, Calvin, and a whole host of others who think they can save themselves without the true Church); or, we can do penance for our own sins, help make reparation for the sins of others, and approach God in prayer with that faith, hope, and love of the leper, and ask Him to help His Church; and He will. Remember that Christ loves His Church as His Bride and will never abandon her.
As hard as it might be right now to see this, the Church is still, and always will be, holy and immaculate, without stain or wrinkle, as Scripture says. The sins of its members, even its leaders, cannot really damage her. As one of the Church’s great theologians, Cardinal Charles Journet, used to say, “the Church is not without sinners, but she is without sin.” The Head of the Church is Christ, God Himself; the Holy Spirit is like its soul (though not literally); and we belong to the Church as its members to the extent that we live according to the Spirit of God.
Our sins, though, are like a disease that is rejected by the body; and when someone commits a mortal sin, they are like a dead limb—they are the ones ultimately who are in danger, while the Church still endures.
The battle that is raging is the same battle that has been raging since the fall of Lucifer. It is a spiritual battle. The devil hates the Church, just as he hates Christ; and he hates all of us, especially priests. So, like good soldiers, when we are attacked, we have to fight back. At the parish were I go on Sundays is a Marine base with their tag line, Semper Fi and like them we should be Semper Si, semper fidelis, Always Faithful. Christ has given us the weapons: prayer (especially the Rosary), the sacraments, fasting, penance, and works of charity.
So, let’s be always faithful even when others are not; and let’s pick up our weapons and crush the enemy. Remember, we’re on the winning side. Like the lepers in the Gospel, let’s have perfect hope in Christ, our Commander; and like the one leper, let’s be grateful for His goodness to us. Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!
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