THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

Her Doctrine and Morals

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

27 January 2019

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Dear Friends,

St. John Chrysostom said: "We must compassionate the infirmity of the body, not despise it; the infirmity however of the soul must not be compassionated, but despised: for the infirmity of our body depends not upon ourselves as to whether it comes or does not come upon us; but the infirmity of our soul is within our own power, and, whether it comes upon us or not depends only upon ourselves. The infirmity of our bodies holds us fast, we do not hold fast to it; the infirmity within our souls holds us not, we rather cling to it. Therefore, the one infirmity is to be compassionated, the other despised."

The leper in today's Gospel in presenting himself to Jesus adores Him as God and asks His Will. "Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou can make me clean." He does not know if it is God's Will for him to have leprosy or not. He knows that God can easily cure him of this, but he is unaware if his physical health is God's Will. God Wills all that is good and for our benefit. Sometimes it is best for our souls to have to suffer some bodily pain, ailment, or disease. In essence, the leper is asking Jesus to cure him, but only if it is in conformity with His Will — if this is what is best.

The infirmity or lack of infirmity in our bodies is not what is truly important. The healthy, as well as the ill, can save their souls and enter into Heaven. Sickness or feebleness of the body evokes our compassion because it can come upon anyone. It is not a sign that God is pleased or displeased with us. Scripture tells us that God strikes hardest those whom He loves more. Yet, we also understand physical suffering is often a punishment or correction from God. We must be careful in judging others as being displeasing to God because they suffer some physical ailment. Nor must we assume that they are therefore pleasing to Him. We must not presume to know the Mind of God. We do not know with certainty whether we are in the state of grace or not without a special revelation from God.

We do know that all that God Wills is holy and good. If God Wills us to have good health in this life this is what is best for us. If God Wills us to suffer from ill health in this world, this too, is what is best for us and is good. Hence, we see the Leper not begging God to heal him, but rather asking to know the Will of God. Jesus answers him in the affirmative: "I Will. Be thou made clean."

Since we do not know if any particular suffering is Willed by God for us, or whether it is brought upon us by ourselves or others and only permitted by God because He respects our free will; we should have compassion upon physical misery. Physical suffering falls upon the just and the unjust alike. Perhaps the suffering of others is given so that we may have the opportunity to practice mercy, patience, or many other virtues. Whatever we do for the least of the brethren we do for Jesus. It is then, imperative for us to be merciful toward those who are suffering physically.

That which does not deserve our compassion is the spiritual suffering of sin. This does not just come upon us but is rather something we seek out and cling to. We should not have any compassion for this. It is sin that makes our souls sick and infirm and sin is not the Will of God.

When bodies are ill we should compassionately seek to alleviate the suffering, but when our souls are sick in sin, we should unmercifully denounce our transgressions in the holy sacrament of Confession doing penance in reparation for our sins as we beg a restoration to spiritual health from Jesus. We should seek to hear the words of Jesus: "Go in peace, your sins are forgiven you." This is much more precious than hearing Him say: "your body is healed."

Finally, let us recall the humility of the Centurian: "Lord, I am not worthy …" as well as his faith: "only say the Word ..." We may seek healing of our bodies and other material benefits, but always with the condition that it is God's Will — humbly accepting either physical benefits or physical suffering. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Olives the night before He died: "Not My Will but Thine be done." If we are to find eternal life we must, with love and faith in Him, cast off our attachment to sin and unceasingly beg the mercy of God in the restoration of life and heath to our souls. "Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the Word and my soul will be healed."

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