GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Being Made Clean Again

‘The leper’s supplication shows that when we present ourselves to Jesus long speeches are not necessary. A few words suffice, though accompanied by full confidence in His omnipotence and in His goodness.’

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Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave during this morning’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean,” (Luke 5:12) is the request that we heard addressed to Jesus by a leper. This man does not only ask to be cured, but to be “purified,” that is, to be healed integrally, in body and in heart. In fact, leprosy was considered a sort of curse from God, of profound impurity. The leper had to keep himself far from everyone; he could not access the Temple or any divine service. He was far from God and far from men. Sad lives these people had!
Despite this, that leper was not resigned either to his sickness or to the dispositions that made of him someone excluded. To reach Jesus, he did not fear to infringe the law and to enter the city – something he should not do, he was prohibited to do –, and, when he found Him “he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” (v. 12). All that this man does and says, who was considered impure, is an expression of his faith! He recognizes the power of Jesus: he is sure He has the power to cure him and that all depends on His will. This faith is the strength that enabled him to break every convention and seek the encounter with Jesus and, kneeling before Him, he calls Him “Lord.” The leper’s supplication shows that when we present ourselves to Jesus long speeches are not necessary. A few words suffice, though accompanied by full confidence in His omnipotence and in His goodness. In fact, to entrust ourselves to the will of God means to submit to His infinite mercy. I will also share something personal with you. In the evening, before going to bed, I pray this brief prayer: “Lord, if you will, you can cleanse me!” And I pray five “Our Fathers,” one for each wound of Jesus, because Jesus has purified us with His wounds. But if I do this, you can also do it at home, and say: “Lord, if you will, you can cleanse me!” –and think of Jesus’ wounds and say an “Our Father for each one of them. And Jesus always listens to us.
Jesus is profoundly affected by this man; Mark’s Gospel underscores that «moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” (1:41). Jesus’ gesture accompanies His words and renders His teaching more explicit. Against the dispositions of the Law of Moses, which prohibited coming close to a leper (cf. Leviticus 13:45-46), Jesus stretches His hand and even touches him. How many times we meet a poor man who comes to us! We can even be generous, we can have compassion, but usually we do not touch him. We offer him money, we throw it there, but we avoid touching his hand. And we forget that that is the body of Christ! Jesus teaches us not to be afraid to touch the poor and the excluded, because He is in them. To touch a poor man can purify us of hypocrisy and render us anxious for his condition. Touch the excluded. Today, I am accompanied here by these youngsters. Many think that it would have been better for them if they had stayed in their land, but they suffered so much there. They are refugees, but so many consider them excluded: Please, they are our brothers! A Christian does not exclude anyone, but gives a place to everyone, allows everyone to come.
After curing the leper, Jesus sternly charges him not to speak about it with anyone, but says to him: «Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” (v. 14). This disposition of Jesus shows at least three things. The first: the grace that acts in us does not seek sensationalism. It usually moves with discretion and without clamor. To medicate our wounds and to guide us on the way of holiness it works molding patiently our heart on the Lord’s Heart, so as to assume increasingly His thoughts and sentiments. The second: by having the healing that happened verified officially by the priests and celebrating an expiatory sacrifice, the leper is readmitted in the community of believers and in social life. His reintegration completes the healing. As he himself had supplicated, now he is completely purified! Finally, by presenting himself to the priests the leper renders them testimony regarding Jesus and His messianic authority. The strength of compassion with which Jesus cured the leper led the faith of this man to open himself to the mission. He was excluded, now he is one of us.
We think of ourselves, of our miseries … Each one has his own. We think with sincerity. How many times we cover them with the hypocrisy of “good manners.” And precisely then, it is necessary to be alone, to kneel before God and pray: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean!” And do it, do it every evening before going to bed. And now we say together this beautiful prayer: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean!”
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT] Greeting in Italian
A warm greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims! I receive with joy the faithful of the dioceses of Alba and Alghero-Bosa, accompanied by their Pastors, Monsignor Brunetti and Monsignor Morfino; the motorcyclists who have come for the Jubilee with the Bishop of Citta di Castello, Monsignor Domenico Cancian; the doctors and volunteers of the “Gemelli” Polyclinic, adherents of the initiative “Give Life with the Heart,” and I thank them for their free cardiological visits to indigents through the mobile ambulatory. Inaugurated in the same hospital last Thursday was the “Small House of Mercy,” a dormitory for persons without a fixed abode, run by Sant’Egidio Community, a concrete work of this Extraordinary Jubilee. Thank you so much!
I greet affectionately the protagonists of the Saracen’s Tournament of Arezzo, dedicated this year to the theme of Mercy, and I express my lively appreciation for their commitment to re-evoke historical events, spreading a message of peace, of dialogue and of encounter between cultures in the name of Saint Francis. Thank you! I greet the UALSI Foundation of Sant’Anastasia; and the members of the Cesare Pozzo Mutual Aid Society. May this meeting with the Successor of Peter be an encouragement in your journey of faith and evangelical testimony.
A special greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Dear young people, Jesus calls you to be “ardent hearts”: correspond with generosity to His invitation, each one according to his talent; dear sick, offer your suffering to Christ crucified to cooperate in the redemption of the world; and you, dear newlyweds, be conscious of the irreplaceable mission to which the Sacrament of Marriage commits you.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]  

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