“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” If there is a common theme in advertisements for personal hygiene products, it is the notion that we will be quite ashamed by certain realities. You do not want unclean clothes. You do not want unclean bodies. You do not want bad breath. You need this toothpaste or that one, this soap or that one, this deodorant or that one. Failure means that you will be greatly shamed.
As a result, we use a lot of water, and we can calculate our own use. As for dollars, we spend a lot of money on our looks. Shampoos, teeth whiteners, soaps, perfumes, toothpastes, and more take a lot of money. It is necessary? There are suggestions we shower too often. Levis suggested not machine washing denim jeans. Since the advent of indoor plumbing in the 1940s, we have more access to machines that use much more water to do what we did before. We have come to believe in the ultimate significance of hygiene. We want to be clean.
To be a leper in Jesus’ day was one of the worst types of uncleanness, and indeed we might not have passed the clean test. We too might have been a leper, because many skin conditions could lead us to be called lepers. But to believe another could make a leper clean in those days? This was a powerful statement of faith. And for miracles to occur, faith is a precondition.
Do we spend as much time thinking about our spiritual cleanliness as we do our personal hygiene cleanliness? As a result of today’s encounter, the leper is made clean. Others come to listen to Jesus and to ultimately be cured. There is a process here, I am guessing. There was the request, indeed the courage of the man who spoke to Jesus. There was the response of Jesus. And there was the telling of others. In some ways, this is a model for the faith. Seek, experience Jesus, be made clean, tell others.
Put simply, I need to be cleaned spiritually. I need to say to Jesus, you can make me clean. I need to encounter the profound mercy of God in confession, the love of God at Mass, the fidelity of God in prayer, and the image of God in the lives I see in others. As I experience these moments of grace, I realize that I am a sinner. That was the answer Pope Francis gave to the question of who he was, when asked early in his pontificate about his self-identity. “Who is Jorge Borgoglio? I am a sinner.”
As a sinner, I must seek the only one who can make me clean. I must seek Jesus, and allow him to clean me from my sins. I am a sinner, and I need the forgiveness, love and mercy of God. And so do you.