“If you wish, you can make me clean.” With these words from this past Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word, an ostracized leper pleads with the Lord Jesus. First and foremost, the leper admits that he needs to be made clean, that he is, in fact, “unclean”. He admits of his broken state. Once he is able to state this real truth, only then can he ask the Lord to work His miracle of healing and restoration.
“I do will it. Be made clean.” And with these words, the Lord frees the man and restores him to health and wholeness. What is Jesus’ clear will? That the one who is in need has his need met with compassion.
As we begin this Lenten Season, we do so by accepting the imposition of ashes upon our heads. Within this ‘little mystery’ is a depth of significance. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” recalls our lowliness, reminds us of our sinful tendencies, of our primordial banal desire to overthrow God as the Lord, and replace Him with our own selves. But by accepting these ashes, we—like the leper—are first and foremost aware of our sin, and we declare before God and all of the Church, that we are sinful. And from our sin, we reach out in faith to the Lord Jesus as our Savior. Only He can bring healing; only He can restore us to dignity; only Christ can redeem us from our fallen state.
“Repent, and believe in the Gospel” is the cry of the Lord Jesus as he invites all to come to faith in Him. As we accept ashes upon our heads today, we hear this same invitation echoed over again. Yes, we have the capacity to hear the Good News and then to believe…to place our faith in God’s Living Word.
My brothers and sisters, throughout these next forty days, recall with great regularity that Christ wills us to have faith, in spite of our sinfulness; He wills us to be clean and to be restored to wholeness in Him; He wills that our works of charity and penance don’t weigh us down, but rather, lift all of humanity up; He wills that as we receive His great compassion, we also share such compassion with those who are in any need. Yes, our forty days call us to re-awaken the gifts of the Holy Spirit that still are very much present within each one of us…ready now to be borne again—by us and through us—in this Lenten Season. May the pattern of life we begin today, lead us to the great joy of Easter.