– Friday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time –
And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” [Mt 8:4]
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus heals a leper. The man is ordered not to tell anyone, but to show himself to the priest and to offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to the people (see Leviticus 14:1-7).
For many readers, the attention-grabbing detail in this story is not the miraculous healing of the man’s leprosy, but Jesus’ instruction that he not tell anyone about it. This raises a couple of questions, namely, what was Jesus’ reason for making this request, and did the man obey?
While the author of Matthew’s Gospel presumably had his reasons for leaving these questions open, the author of Mark’s Gospel supplies the answers. After narrating the same event, we read: “But he [i.e. the leper] went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter” (Mark 1:45).
So according to Mark, the healed leper couldn’t keep quiet. But can you blame him? Being cured was ‘good news’ indeed, and his desire to share that news with others would have been extremely powerful; so powerful, that it won out over Jesus’ injunction.
The consequence of the man’s disobedience was that Jesus was forced to relocate to the countryside. But while this was undoubtedly factored into the divine plan, it presumably wasn’t part of God’s active will or else Jesus would have never issued the order.
So what are we to learn from this? One possibility is that, just as we are called to obedience when things don’t go our way (such as refraining from grumbling when our prayers are answered negatively), so we must likewise exercise obedience when we’re on a high (such as not letting our emotions overtake prudent action). In other words, it doesn’t matter whether we are going through desolation or consolation – our fidelity to God’s will is always paramount.
by Mark Makowiecki
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