You are in the doctor’s exam room, perched on the side of the examination table, awaiting the doctor’s return. When he does so, the doctor brings another one with him. Their combined verdict is clear: “You have a strong case of cancer.”
Since you’ve been a patient of this man for many years, you know of his special concern for you. You inherently know how much the doctor would instead be saying something else.
That’s how it could be for any of us since cancer’s arrival and its varied forms. You dread the sudden imposition of isolation this may bring. Most family and friends take on this serious air around you. You are grateful for those who can still share a laugh with you, no matter the subject. And when you are alone, you try to remember that in- stead of holding a “pity party” for yourself.
All of that was part of the plight of the unnamed leper who met Jesus on that long-ago day. He knew the pain of his condition, but the social strictures Leviticus demanded in those days that he live apart from family and friends and shout out to everybody, “Unclean! Unclean!” Jesus will thus make all the difference.
Mark’s description that Jesus was “moved with pity,” is a bit tepid rendition of the original Greek word used here, which is “embrimesamenos.” The word means rather “strong emotions that boil over and find expression in groaning.” That was the depth of the healing love in Our Lord’s great heart that day.
This weekend finds us in “the vestibule,” so to speak, of Lent. We can easily acknowledge our need for re- pentance at any time, but Lent is a special season for this. Think of it as a retreat. At least as a time to zero in on the “leprosy” of sin that regularly infects our souls. How supportive, consoling, and hopeful it is to know that God sent us His Son as an emissary who could be so concerned for our healing as to groan over us! I believe that prompted Jesus to say on another occasion, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.”
Bishop Robert Barron offers this complimentary pre-Lenten observation: “It is a biblical commonplace that we are unable to save ourselves from sin since the very powers that we would muster to do so—the mind, the will, and the passions—are precisely what sin has compromised. Our only hope, therefore, is in the divine salvation of- fered as a gift.”
In Lent, we’re all, figuratively speaking, in “the office “of the Divine Physician, the Healer of souls. Tell him your condition, and then listen attentively. And don’t be like this man who consulted with his doctor. “I have a terrible problem,” he confided. “I’ve been carousing and misbehaving. It’s been happening more and more frequently, and my conscience is beginning to trouble me very deeply. Can you give me something that will help?”
The doctor replied, “Oh, I see; you want me to give you something to strengthen your willpower?” “No” the patient protested. “That’s not it. I don’t want to strengthen my willpower. I want you to give me something to weaken my conscience.”
Have a good Lent. God loves you and gives you His peace.