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NOVENA PRAYER TO JOHN BRADBURNE

ABOUT JOHN BRADBURNE

“Third Order Franciscan, mystic, poet and friend of lepers. Born in England in 1921, he served with the Gurkhas in Malaya and Burma during World War II. A Pauline-like conversion led him to become a pilgrim seeker, first with the Benedictines, then the Carthusians, but he remained a layman to the end. His search for God’s will led him through England, Europe and the Holy Land, mostly on foot. In 1962 he went to ‘seek a cave’ in Zimbabwe. Instead he found Mutemwa Leprosy Settlement. There he tended a flock of 80 leprosy patients with loving care, laying down his life for them on September 5th, 1979.

At his funeral, a pool of [fresh] blood was seen beneath his coffin. On opening it, there was no evidence where the blood had come from. However, an oversight was revealed: John had not been clothed in the habit of St Francis, as is the privilege of members of the Third Order, and had been John’s wish. The habit was found and John clothed in it.

Since his death there have been many signs of his sanctity: reports of miracles, claims of cures, as well as many answers to prayer. More important, many have turned to God through John’s extraordinary example. [Since John’s death many people have testified that after praying to John or being blessed by a relic they have been also visited by peaceful bees. He was known to have lived among ferocious African bees, walking barefoot among them, and not being stung, neither would they sting visitors to his little hut.]

NOVENA PRAYER TO JOHN BRADBURNE

Dear John you allowed your life to be guided by the Holy Spirit and by Mary your Queen and Mother, and with great generosity you searched unceasingly for God’s will and love. In so doing you pleased Him.

We therefore ask a favour through your intercession, from the Most Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for whom you laid down your life that (mention your requests). Not our will but His be done. Amen.

Our Father…, Hail Mary…, Glory be…

A PRAYER FOR THE UNIVERSAL RECOGNITION OF THE SERVANT OF GOD JOHN RANDAL BRADBURNE

O most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit we adore you profoundly. You chose John to be a witness of Your Love for the poor and unwanted. You inspired him with a knowledge and love of the true faith. You gave him a great understanding of the mystery of Your own life, as well as an extraordinary love for Mary, Your Mother, which gave him the desire to spread your love everywhere.

Knowing that if we ask the Father for anything in the name of His Son, Jesus, He will grant it, we humbly ask that John’s virtuous life will be recognised and that he will be declared ‘Blessed’, by the present Holy Father, Pope Francis.

We also pray for a special favour through his prayer and the intercession of Mary our Mother that (mention your requests).

And if that which I ask is not in conformity with God’s Glory and the greater good of my soul, be pleased to grant me what will secure the attainment of both. Amen.

Hail Mary (three times)”

– (From the leaflet of the society – see below. For further information, donations, petitions and favours granted, contact: The John Bradburne Memorial Society, P.O. Box 32, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 0YB, England. Website: http://www.johnbradburne.com (external link).

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SIN, THE “LEPROSY OF THE SOUL”

• “Jesus came to seek, save and heal the lost.

• Reading: Luke 4:24-30

• ‘Yet not one of them was cleansed – only Naaman the Syrian.’

• Elisha was sent to Israel as a healer and physician but only the Syrian, Naaman, was healed (Lk 4:27). We can liken our sinful condition to the leprosy which was a scourge in Israel during the time of Elisha. Sin, rather like leprosy, disfigures and distorts, wounding and destroying. Take gossip for example. It is rather like leprosy. It is contagious, infectious and wreaks havoc on those who engage in it, and it undermines the dignity of those on the receiving end of it. We have recognised that smoking is bad for our physical health and we put up ‘No Smoking’ signs. So too perhaps we should put up ‘No gossiping’ signs or ‘This is a gossip-free zone.’

• Lord, help me to examine my conscience honestly and truthfully and with integrity. Give me the grace to reject the temptation to gossip or slander and to strive to treat others as I would want to be treated myself.

• Our Father…, Ten Hail Marys…, Glory be…

• Today my prayer is for…”
– This short meditation was published in “A Lenten Journey of Prayer for 2013” by AlivePublishing. For information about their booklets please visit http://www.alivepublishing.co.uk (external link).

 

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24th MARCH, GOSPEL READING (LUKE 4:24-30)

LIKE ELIJAH AND ELISHA, JESUS IS NOT SENT TO THE JEWS ONLY.

Jesus came to Nazara and spoke to the people in the synagogue: “I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

“There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.”

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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24th MARCH, BIBLE READING (2 KINGS 5:1-15)

THERE WERE MANY LEPERS IN ISRAEL, BUT NONE OF THESE WAS CURED, EXCEPT THE SYRIAN, NAAMAN.

Naaman, army commander to the king of Aram, was a man who enjoyed his master’s respect and favour, since through him the Lord had granted victory to the Aramaeans. But the man was a leper. Now on one of their raids, the Aramaeans had carried off from the land of Israel a little girl who had become a servant of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would approach the prophet of Samaria. He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went and told his master. “This and this,” he reported, “is what the girl from the land of Israel said.” “Go by all means,” said the king of Aram, “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten festal robes. He presented the letter to the king of Israel. It read: “With this letter, I am sending my servant Naaman for you to cure him of his leprosy.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his garments. “Am I a god to give death and life,” he said, “that he sends a man to me and asks me to cure him of his leprosy? Listen to this, and take note of it and see how he intends to pick a quarrel with me.”

When Elisha heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king, “Why did you tear your garments? Let him come to me, and he will find there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his team and chariot and drew up at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent him a messenger to say, “Go and bathe seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will become clean once more.” But Naaman was indignant and went off, saying, “Here was I thinking he would be sure to come out to me, and stand there, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the spot and cure the leprous part. Surely Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, are better than any water in Israel? Could I not bathe in them and become clean?” And he turned round and went off in a rage.

But his servants approached him and said, “My father, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? All the more reason, then, when he says to you, ‘Bathe and you will become clean.’” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. And his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.

Returning to Elisha with his whole escort, he went in and stood before him. “Now I know,” he said, “that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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“OUT OF ORDER” – THE PHARISEES’ VERDICT ON THE BEGINNING OF JESUS CHRIST’S GALILEAN MINISTRY

THE ARREST OF JOHN THE BAPTIST WAS A RELIEF TO THE PHARISEES

“After Herod the tetrarch had imprisoned John the Baptist Jesus departed from Judea and set out for Galilee. St John seems to hint that Jesus left Judea because of the opposition of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were, in their own minds, the official representatives of the holiness of Israel. The preaching of John the Baptist was probably regarded by them as out of order. The arrest and imprisonment of John was a relief to them. But, as they learned, the preaching of Jesus was becoming even more popular and He was attracting even more disciples than had John. In order to avoid their enmity Jesus left Judea.

‘LIVING WATER’

Jesus returned to Galilee through Samaria. At the Samaritan town of Sichar Jesus announced Himself to the Samaritans as the Messias, the Christ. He was sitting at the well of Jacob when a Samaritan woman drew near to fetch water. Jesus asked her for some water to drink. Because of the bitter enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans the woman was surprised at the request. When she inquired how it was that a Jew stooped to ask a Samaritan for water Jesus told her that if she but knew Who He was she would ask Him for water and He would give her living water, a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting. Jesus, of course, referred to the new life of holiness which He could give her.

A NEW LIFE OF HOLINESS

The woman was sceptical. But Jesus overcame her scepticism by revealing to her the secret of her life. This revelation of her secret led her to accept Jesus as a prophet. But loyalty to her own religion and nation made her propose a problem. “Our fathers,” she said, “worshipped on this mountain, but you say that at Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (John 4:20).

‘THE HOUR IS COMING, AND IS NOW HERE…’

Jesus replied to her: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to worship him. God is spirit, and they who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24).

‘THIS IS IN TRUTH THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD’

The woman was still not convinced and so she attempted to put the problem aside by appealing to a higher authority. “I know,” she said, “that Messias is coming (who is called Christ), and when he comes he will tell us all things.” But Jesus replied, “I who speak with thee am he” (John 4:25-26). Thus simply did Jesus proclaim Himself to be the Messias, the Anointed One sent by God to bring salvation to the world. The woman believed Him and brought her fellow-townsmen to meet Him. Many of the inhabitants of Sichar accepted Jesus as the Messias, saying, “We know that this is in truth the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42).

THE SALVATION BROUGHT BY JESUS IS WITHIN THE DIVINE PLAN ANNOUNCED TO ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB

This incident at Jacob’s well is interesting for several reasons. It is the first declaration made by Jesus Himself of His Messiahship. Secondly, it marks the first acceptance of Jesus as the Messias by people who were not members of the Chosen Race. In this way it is a foreshadowing of the acceptance of Jesus by the Gentile world, and so it is a beginning of the fulfilment of the words of Jesus: ‘The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” Jesus is announcing the extension of salvation to the whole world. Thirdly, it is also possible that the incident foreshadows the ultimate rejection of Jesus by the Jews, for St John tells us that Jesus left Judea to return to Galilee because ‘a prophet receives no honour in his own country’ (John 4:44). Fourthly, Jesus here reveals the basic spiritual nature of the kingdom He has come to establish as the Messias. True worshippers, He says, will worship God in spirit and in truth. The material worship at the Temple of Jerusalem will give way to a more spiritual worship. Lastly, and with an importance of its own, Jesus insists that ‘salvation is from the Jews.’ Even though it is to be extended to all the world and even though it may be rejected by the Chosen People themselves, nevertheless salvation comes to the world from the Jews. In this way the salvation brought by Jesus is found to be within the divine plan announced so long ago to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

THE POWER OF JESUS IS NOT LIMITED BY SPACE OR TIME

After a stay of two days in Samaria Jesus reentered Galilee. At Cana He was approached by a royal official whose son was lying sick at Capernaum. In response to his request Jesus cured his son of fever. Since Jesus was at Cana and the boy was lying ill at Capharnaum, the cure was worked at a distance. The power of Jesus, it is clear, is not bound by the limitations of space or time. As a result of this miraculous cure the official and his whole household came to believe in Jesus.

‘TODAY THIS SCRIPTURE HAS BEEN FULFILLED’

The fame of the miracles of Jesus spread throughout Galilee and Jesus was welcomed to preach in the synagogues throughout the region. In the synagogue of Nazareth, His own home town, Jesus spoke to the people of the prophecy made by Isaias: ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me; to bring good news to the poor he has sent me, to proclaim to the captives release and sight to the blind; to set at liberty the oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of recompense.’ After reading this prophecy to the people Jesus said to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4:18-19, 21). Since Isaias was referring to the blessings of Messianic times, Jesus was declaring to the people of Nazareth that these blessings were to be found in His own Person.

HE WAS TEACHING AS ONE HAVING AUTHORITY

During this stay in Galilee Jesus seems to have chosen Capharnaum as the centre of His ministry. It is at Capharnaum that the people were astonished at His teaching and recognised that He was teaching as one having authority, and not as the Scribes and Pharisees. It is at Capharnaum that He worked many miracles. There He drove devils from the bodies of many; there He healed the mother-in-law of Simon Peter; there He cured many people afflicted with various diseases. St Matthew tells us that Jesus worked these wonderful cures so that the words of Isaias might be fulfilled: ‘He himself took up our infirmities, and bore the burden of our ills’ (Matthew 8:17).

THE GOOD NEWS OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

The news of His miracles spread abroad throughout Galilee and many people desired to hear Him preach. Jesus satisfied their desires by going in the neighbouring towns and villages to preach the good news of the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

JESUS CALLS THE APOSTLES

It was during one of these preaching journeys that Jesus definitely called four fishermen to be His associates in the work of saving men. At Lake Genesareth He saw Simon and Andrew fishing. They had laboured all night and had caught nothing. Jesus entered their boat and preached to the crowd on the shore. After He had finished He asked Simon to launch into the deep and let down the nets. Simon felt that the effort was useless, but at the words of Jesus he let down the nets. At once they were filled with so great a catch of fish that Simon had to enlist the aid of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, to get all the fish to land. Simon was frightened at the miracle and besought Jesus to leave him, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ (Luke 5:8). But Jesus instead called Simon, Andrew, James and John to follow Him, saying, ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19). Immediately they left their boats and followed Jesus. These four fishermen, then, were no longer simply believers in Jesus; they had become, at the call of Jesus Himself, fishers of men, that is, they were to assist Jesus in the work of enrolling men in the Kingdom of God.

THE CLEANSING OF THE LEPER

In some unnamed town in Galilee at the time Jesus worked one of His most marvellous cures. A leper came to Him and said, ‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’ (Luke 5:12). Jesus stretched forth His hand, touched the leper and said, “I will; be thou made clean’ (Luke 5:13). Immediately the leper was cured. Jesus asked him to tell no one of this miracle, but the leper could not contain himself and his joy and wonder. He published abroad the great act of mercy and power extended to himself by Jesus. This increased the fame of Jesus and the admiration of the people for Him.

THE SUSPICION OF THE PHARISEES

The growing fame and popularity of Jesus excited the suspicion of the Pharisees. The Scribes and the Pharisees of Galilee – and even some from Judea and Jerusalem itself – began to observe the activities of Jesus at close hand. It was not long before they found grounds sufficient to their narrow mentalities to object to the words and deeds of Jesus.

‘THY SINS ARE FORGIVEN THEE’

Jesus had returned to Capharnaum after a trip to the neighbouring towns. When the report spread abroad that He was at home, four men brought to Him a paralytic. So great was the crowd gathered to listen to Jesus that they had to lower the sick man down to Jesus through a hole in the roof of the house. Jesus was deeply touched at this manifestation of faith. But, instead of curing the man of his paralysis at once, He said to him, ‘Take courage, son; thy sins are forgiven thee’ (Matthew 9:2).

The Scribes and Pharisees seized upon this as evidence that Jesus was over-reaching Himself. ‘Who is this man who speaks blasphemies?’ they asked. ‘Who can forgive sins, but God only?’ Jesus rose to the challenge. ‘Why are you arguing in your hearts?’ He asked. ‘Which is easier, to say ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee,’ or to say ‘Arise and walk.’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins – he said to the paralytic – I say to thee, arise, take up thy pallet and go into thy house’ (Luke 5:22-24).

The paralytic man arose, took up his pallet and returned to his house. The Scribes and Pharisees were defeated and the crowd glorified God for giving such power to men. The cure of the paralytic proved that Jesus did possess the power He claimed, the power, the divine power to forgive sin.

JESUS IS EATING AND DRINKING WITH SINNERS

This striking manifestation of divine power was not accepted by the Scribes and Pharisees. Their continued their efforts to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people. The next incident occurred when Jesus chose a publican named Levi to be one of His associates. Levi, or Matthew (as we know Him), was a tax collector. As such he would be unpopular with people generally, and suspected of being dishonest. But when he was called by Jesus, he gave up his position as a publican or tax-collector and followed Jesus. To celebrate his call to enter the Kingdom of God Levi gave a great feast and invited other publicans to attend. The Pharisees protested to the disciples of Jesus, ‘Why do you eat with publicans and sinners?’ (Luke 5:30). Or, as Matthew and Mark tell the story: ‘Why does your master eat and drink with publicans and sinners?’ (Matthew 9:11; Mark 2:16).

THE PHARISEES WERE TRYING TO DISCREDIT JESUS IN THE EYES OF THE PEOPLE

The Pharisees were trying to discredit Jesus by pointing out that He lived familiarly with sinners. The Pharisees themselves would not enter into such contact with men whom they regarded as legally or ritually unclean. Jesus replied to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a physician, but they who are sick. I have not come to call the just, but sinners to repentance’ (Luke 5:31-32).

In these simple words Jesus rebuked the pride and the callousness of the Pharisees. Priding themselves on their own purity because they kept scrupulously the many prescriptions of the law as interpreted by the Scribes, they avoided ordinary men who could not keep the same strict observance. In their minds only they were pleasing to God and the blessings of God were not to be extended to others. To this proud attitude Jesus replies that the blessings of God are to be extended to all. Those who are already truly just do not need Him; hence He has come to call sinners to repentance and, to call them successfully, He will go to them directly.

ONE FASTS TO BE CLOSE TO GOD SPIRITUALLY; IF GOD INCARNATE IS RIGHT IN YOUR MIDST, ONE DOESN’T NEED TO FAST WHILST HE IS THUS AROUND

The Pharisees returned to the attack by pointing out that they and the disciples of John the Baptist observed fasts, whereas the disciples of Jesus did not. If Jesus and His disciples were really good Jews, would not they also fast? Jesus answered them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and they will fast. And no one puts a patch of raw cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, for the patch tears away from the garment and a worse rent is made. Nor do people pour new wine into old wine-skins, else the skins burst, and the wine is spilt, and the skins are ruined. But they put new wine into fresh skins, and both are saved’ (Matthew 9:15-17).

THINGS HAVE MOVED ON; GOD’S LAW IS BEING FULFILLED BY JESUS CHRIST INAUGURATING THE KINGDOM OF LOVE

This reply of Jesus was hardly satisfactory to the Pharisees. It implied what they were unwilling to accept: that Jesus was someone extraordinary, someone whose mere presence was an occasion for rejoicing rather than fasting. Now the Pharisees were anxious to show that Jesus was someone ordinary, perhaps someone less than ordinary, someone to be shunned rather than followed, an occasion for fasting rather than joy.

THE DEEPER MEANING

Actually Jesus, in veiled terms, is telling them that He will some day be separated from His disciples, and as a result of this separation a new spirit, a new life, will be given to His followers. When He speaks of the separation of the bridegroom from his wedding guests, Jesus refers to His death on the Cross for the salvation of men. When He speaks of the foolishness of putting a fresh patch on an old garment or of pouring fresh patch on an old garment or of pouring fresh wine into old wine-skins, He alludes to the fact that He will establish a new life in God and a new Law. His disciples must not be asked to observe the old Pharisaic observances.

HEALING ON A SABBATH

The next dispute of the Pharisees with Jesus was concerned with the observance of the Sabbath. In the minds of the Pharisees the Sabbath law was very strict. No work of any kind might be done on the Sabbath. On two occasions Jesus did not seem to observe the law as the Pharisees thought it should be kept. Once the disciples of Jesus picked corn on the Sabbath and ate it. On another occasion Jesus worked a miracle on the Sabbath; He cured a man with a withered hand. Both times the Pharisees objected. On the first occasion Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath’ (Luke 6:5). On the second He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil? To save a life or to destroy it?’ (Mark 3:4).

THE PHARISEES’ OPPOSITION TO JESUS GREW

These replies infuriated the Pharisees and hardened their opposition to Jesus. As St Matthew tells us, ‘But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him, how they might do away with him’ (Matthew 12:14). From this time on there is war between the Pharisees and Jesus. They are determined to destroy Him. They see in Him only an enemy of all that they themselves stand for.

The guilt of the Pharisees in rejecting Jesus is something only God can measure. The language of Jesus Himself seems to hint that in His eyes these Pharisees were not guiltless. But, be that as it may, the important thing is to notice that throughout these first encounters with the Pharisees Jesus is manifesting gradually more of His own identity.

JESUS IS REFERRING TO HIS ROLE IN RELATION TO THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE

At least twice He calls Himself Son of Man, thus identifying Himself with the apocalyptic figure spoken of by the prophet Daniel, the Son of Man Who will ultimately come to judge the whole world. He refers to Himself as the ‘bridegroom,’ thus recalling what John the Baptist has already called Him. At the moment the Pharisees probably could not see His deep meaning. But He was referring to His role in relation to the whole human race. He is the bridegroom of all humanity, and through union with Him the bride, all humanity, will be saved. He claims to be the ‘Lord of the Sabbath.’ Now the Sabbath was the Lord’s day, God’s day. By claiming power over the Sabbath Jesus was claiming at least to have some special power from God to do as He pleased with the Sabbath, the day of God. He claimed also to have on earth the power to forgive sins.

What were all these claims, these claims so staggering even to the imagination of religious men such as the Pharisees? Were they blashemies, as the Pharisees decided they were? Or were they sober but stupendous truth? Only the remainder of the story can tell us.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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VAINGLORY, FLATTERY, POPULARITY: “WHAT A SAD BARGAIN, SELLING THE REWARD OF THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM FOR THE WIND OF A HUMAN MOUTH!”

HOW TO BE CLEANSED OF THE LEPROSY OF SIN ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL

(Part I “The Meaning of ‘Leper’ and ‘Infected With Leprosy’ in the Gospels” was posted on this blog on January 14 2014.)

“ON THE THREE VIRTUES, WITHOUT WHICH NO-ONE IS CLEANSED FROM THE LEPROSY OF SIN

‘And behold, a leper came and adored him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’ [Mt 8:2]. Note that the three words ‘came’, ‘adore’ and ‘said: Lord, if thou wilt’ denote contrition, confession and faith, which are very needful for every sinner. First he should ‘come’ by contrition, ‘Come from Libanus’ [Cant 4:8], from the false glamour of worldly vanity.

OVERCOMING WORLDLY VANITY

‘He that heareth, let him say: Come’ [Apoc 22:17]. He who hears ‘the whisper of a gentle breeze’ [3 (1) Kg 19:12] in his mind, by inward inspiration, should say to the sinner ‘come’, by contrition. As Isaiah says:

‘If you seek: return, come’ [Is 21:12]

So, ‘the leper came and adored him’. Behold the humility of confession, expressed more clearly by Mark, who says:

‘He came to him, beseeching him; and kneeling down said to him: If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’ [Mk 1:40].

In this way, the sinner, when he comes to confession, should kneel before the priest, the representative of Jesus Christ, who has given him the power of binding and loosing. The one confessing should have such faith in his office that he may say to him, ‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’, and absolve me from my sins.

There follows: ‘And stretching forth his hand he touched him, saying: I will, be thou made clean’ [Mt 8:3]. He speaks in the imperative mood, ‘his hand turned and as of gold, full of hyacinths [Cant 5:14], and at its touch the tongue of the dumb is loosed, the ruler’s daughter is raised, the leper is cleansed of his leprosy. ‘My hand has made all these things’ [Is 66:2]. The hand bestows reward: so stretch out your hand, Lord, to bestow reward, that hand which was stretched out by the nail on the Cross. Touch the leper: whatever you touch will be cleansed and healed. Luke says:

‘When he had touched his ear, he healed him’ [Lk 22:51].

He stretched out his hand and bestowed the gift of cleansing, saying:

‘I will: be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed’ [Mt 8:3].

‘He hath done all things whatsoever he would’ [Ps 113b:3]. For him, there is no gap between will and deed. Every day, the Lord does this same thing in the soul of the sinner, by the office of the priest; who should have these three things in himself, ‘to stretch out’, ‘to touch’, ‘to will’. He stretches out his hand when he pours out his prayer to the Lord for the sinner, and afflicts himself out of compassion for him. He touches, when he comforts the sinner and promises him pardon. He has the will to cleanse, when he absolves him from his sins. This is the threefold work of a shepherd, of which the Lord spoke to Peter: ‘Feed, feed, feed’ [Jn 21:15-17].

ON ETERNAL LIFE, THE ONLY REWARD EXPECTED

There follows: ‘And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man’ [Mt 8:4]. This is not the manner of speaking of those who blow their own trumpet when they do anything good, whose left hand knows all too well what their right hand is doing [cf. Mt 6:3]. They as it were ‘prostitute their daughter’, against the prohibition of Moses, who said:

‘Make not thy daughter a common strumpet’ [Lev 19:29].

Your ‘daughter’ is your action, and you prostitute it when you sell it to the world’s brothel for the coin of vainglory.

What a sad bargain, selling the reward of the heavenly kingdom for the wind of a human mouth!

‘See thou tell no man’: do not show what is yours to anyone. Are not God and your conscience enough for you, brother? What have you in common with the tongue of man? It condemns what it should praise, it praises what it should condemn. It casts the just man into the depths of hell, it raises the wicked to the throne of God and of the Lamb. ‘See thou tell no man.’ So Ecclesiasticus says:

‘Give no issue to thy water, no, not a little’ [Ecclus 25:34].

And Isaiah:

‘My secret to myself, my secret to myself’ [Is 24:16].

And at the word of Eliseus:

‘The woman went, and shut the door upon her, and upon her sons’ [4 (2)Kg 4:5].

And Matthew:
‘Having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret’ [Mt 6:6].

And Luke:

‘Remove not from house to house’ [Lk 10:7].

So, ‘see thou tell no man.’ Nature sets a double gate in front of the tongue, the teeth and the lips, lest the harlot who loves publicity goes out into the street, ‘talkative and wandering, not bearing to be quiet’ [Prov 7:10-11]. Close your teeth, press your lips together, lest the harlot goes out to the brothel; as Ecclesiasticus says:

‘Do not give a wicked woman liberty to gad abroad’ [Ecclus 25:34].

Then you will fulfil the command: ‘See thou tell no man.’

There follows: ‘But go, show thyself to the priests’ [Mt 8:4]. These three words and their meaning are explained in the Gospel of the ten lepers: ‘When Jesus was going to Jerusalem’ [Pentecost XIV].

ON THE TWO-FOLD OFFERING WHICH EVERY PENITENT SHOULD MAKE FOR HIS CLEANSING

There follows: ‘And offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them’ [Mt 8:4].

Leviticus says:

And the Lord ‘spoke to Moses: This is the rite of a leper, when he is to be cleansed. He shall be brought to the priest: who, going out of the camp, when he shall find that the leprosy is cleansed, shall command him that is to be purified, to offer for himself two living sparrows, which it is lawful to eat, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop. And he shall command one of the sparrows to be immolated in an earthen vessel over living waters. But the other that is alive he shall dip, with the cedar wood, and the scarlet and the hyssop, in the blood of the sparrow that is immolated: wherewith he shall sprinkle him that is to be cleansed seven times, that he may be rightly purified. And he shall let go the living sparrow, that it may fly into the field… And he shall take (or offer) two lambs without blemish, and an ewe of a year old without blemish, and three tenths of flour tempered with oil for a sacrifice, and a sextuary of oil apart… but if he be poor; and his hand cannot find the things aforesaid: he shall take a lamb for an offering for trespass, and a tenth of flour tempered with oil for a sacrifice, and a sextuary of oil: and two turtle doves or two young pigeons, of which one may be for sin, the other for a holocaust. And he shall offer them… to the priest, at the door of the tabernacle of the testimony before the Lord.’ [Lev 14:1-7, 10, 21-23].

Let us see what is the moral significance of all this.

… The ‘two living sparrows’ are the body and spirit [of the very pious] who can say with the Apostle: ‘I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me’ [Gal 2:20]. He offers these sparrows to the Lord for his cleansing. So it says in Judges:

‘O you that of your own good will offered yourselves to danger, bless the Lord; you that ride upon fair asses, and you that sit in judgement, and walk in the way’ [Jg 5:9-10].

The ‘fair asses’ are the bodies [of the very pious] who bear the burden and heat of the day, and who like asses should feed on raw and rough food. Ecclesiasticus says:

‘Fodder and a wand and a burden are for an ass: bread and correction and work for a slave’ [Ecclus 33:25]

that is, for a religious who ‘sits in judgement’ when he is under obedience to a superior, and ‘walks in the way’ Jeremiah speaks of:

‘This is the good way, and walk you in it’ [Jer 6:16]

that Way who himself says: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ [Jn 14:6].

[The very pious] should also offer the ‘cedar wood’ of poverty, the ‘scarlet’ of charity and the ‘hyssop’ of humility. The tall cedar of poverty, whose scent puts to flight the serpents of avarice and robbery, is joined to the hyssop of humility, which drives out the swelling of the lungs by means of the scarlet of a twofold charity. One of the sparrows (that is, the body) he shall sacrifice, so as to say with the Apostle:

‘The world is crucified to me, and I to the world’ [Gal 6:14]

and:

‘I am even now ready to be sacrificed’ [2 Tim 4:6].

‘In an earthen vessel’, for as the Apostle says:

‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels’ [2 Cor 4:7]

‘over living waters’, namely compunction and tears, which are ‘living’ when they are poured out upon ‘the upper and the nether watery ground’ [Jos 15:19; Jg 1:15], of which Zechariah says:

‘In that day living waters shall go out from Jerusalem’

(the heart of the penitent),

‘half of them to the east sea’

(the ‘upper watery ground’)

‘and half of them to the last sea’

(the ‘nether watery ground’) [Zech 14:8].

The ‘east sea’ is bitterness for the splendour of eternal life; the ‘last sea’ is bitterness for the sins committed by oneself, for our earthly exile, and for the sins of one’s neighbour. So [the very pious should] ‘immolate the sparrow in an earthen vessel over living waters’, by crucifying his body with its vices and desires, and pondering in bitterness of spirit the frailty of life and the downfall of our exile.

There follows: ‘But the other that is alive’, etc. The living sparrow is the spirit, which he should dip, along with the cedar-wood of poverty, the scarlet of charity and the hyssop of humility, in the blood of the sparrow (the body) which has been sacrificed on the altar of penitence. The affliction and discipline of the body (represented as ‘blood’) cleanses and sanctifies the spirit, so that it flies on the wings of contemplation, with those other virtues we have mentioned, to the field of heaven.

There follows: ‘And he shall take two lambs without blemish’, etc. The two lambs stand for meekness of soul and body; the ewe for a simple and pure intention in all one’s work; the three-tenths of flour for the threefold obedience of [superiors, equals and inferiors]; and the sextuary of oil for the six works of mercy. This is the offering which every [very pious person] should offer for the cleansing of his own sin.

There follows: ‘But if he be poor’, etc. The lamb represents innocence of life, the tenth part of the flour the perfection of eternal charity, the sextuary of oil the six works of mercy (as before), the two turtle-doves or pigeons the two-fold sighing which the sinner should emit for things done and left undone. This is the offering which [other good folk still living in the world] should make to the Lord – namely, to live innocently, to love their neighbour, to do works of mercy and to be sorry for sins of commission and omission. So let us say: ‘Go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them.'”
– St Anthony of Padua

 
 

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TODAY’S GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 8:1-4)

IF YOU WANT TO, YOU CAN CURE ME.

After Jesus had come down from the mountain large crowds followed him. A leper now came up and bowed low in front of him. “Sir,” he said “if you want to, you can cure me.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him and said, “Of course I want to! Be cured!” And his leprosy was cured at once. Then Jesus said to him, “Mind you do not tell anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest and take the offering prescribed by Moses, as evidence for them.”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 
 

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