O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son:
may we recognize him as our Lord
and know ourselves to be your beloved children;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Psalm 95.1, 8-11
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation.
O that today you would listen to his voice:
‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, on that day at Massah in the wilderness,
‘When your forebears tested me, and put me to the proof,
though they had seen my works.
‘Forty years long I detested that generation and said,
“This people are wayward in their hearts;
they do not know my ways.”
‘So I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter into my rest.” ’
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Jesus said to the man: See that you say nothing to anyone; but …
Down the centuries there have been many different interpretations of these words. Jesus has just been confronted by a man of faith, faith that flourished despite the leprosy that put grave restrictions on his life. That man begged for the gift of healing. Recognizing his faith, Jesus chose to grant that miraculous gift. But then, Jesus told the man to say nothing to anyone. This moment in the gospel narrative is not unique. There are several times when Jesus tells people, including his disciples, not to tell others of what they have experienced or seen. What can we draw from such moments? We, like the twelve disciples, are called to share the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection with all. As Jesus modelled love and service in the way he lived his own life, so we are called to do the same. We are called to be the vehicles through which his healing touch may be felt in this troubled world. So, why might Jesus have told those early recipients of his miraculous compassion not to pass on the message?
We are not able to give a definitive answer to that question. Jesus did not leave us an explanation for these words. We can only meditate upon them and seek to connect with the wisdom that lies behind them. Several possible explanations spring to mind: did Jesus feel that the world was not ready for the full truth of what his power could achieve? Did Jesus feel that humanity would only truly understand what he was doing after the whole story had been played out? Was Jesus simply testing us? Was he wondering whether we were capable of obeying the simplest of instructions from our Lord and Saviour. But, of course, such an instruction was not ‘simple’. Surely Jesus realized that the life-changing signs he was performing would generate celebration, elation and repetition.
There is, of course, another way of thinking about Jesus’ command to say nothing to anyone. There is a well-known saying that is attributed to St Francis of Assisi. That saying is: Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words. Whether or not these words were ever uttered by Francis is a matter of some controversy, but that controversy is a red herring, it is irrelevant. It is the message behind these words that provide us with a powerful blueprint for living the life of a true disciple in the twenty-first century. We are not called to be like the first century scribes and Pharisees who delighted in exploring the minutiae of God’s word, coming to incorrect conclusions and then imposing their own rules upon others. Rather, we are called to share God’s love with all, to shine with the light of Christ, to show in real terms the joy of the Christian message. Every day we are presented with opportunities to testify to the love of God in our lives. Every day we risk falling into the trap of the Pharisees. We risk using human wisdom to create confusion and misunderstanding when we should simply be showing others what the Good News of Jesus Christ really means.
Before we rush into sharing our thoughts and ‘wisdom’ with others, let us stop, say nothing, and do everything we can to let those amongst whom we live see just how much they are loved.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God, who rejects none who come to him in faith.
Grant that we who confess the faith of Christ may run the race that is set before us, looking for no reward but that of doing your will. Give us discernment to see you in the little things as well as in the great, and to obey whatever you may command.
Break the pride of human power that will not accept the simplicity of divine truth. Show the way to those who walk through the world without direction or purpose.
In your compassion, give wholeness and strength to us, to our families and friends and neighbours. Teach us to live with joy in the pleasures which you grant us but never to let them come between ourselves and our calling in you.
We pray for all who suffer from diseases that bring scorn and rejection as well as bodily suffering. Bless and guide those who seek cures for what has seemed incurable. Give patience and love to those who care for the chronically ill.
Have mercy on those who died as outcasts because their sickness was judged harshly by those around them. Make them whole in your presence, restored by the love that they could not find in this world.
We pray that our unworthiness may be made worthy by the healing power of Christ.
Prayer for the week
Loving Father, we pray for all
who are any way troubled at this time.
Give relief to those in pain,
friendship to those who are alone,
reassurance to those in doubt or distress of mind;
and may our love be so strong that seeing need
we may never pass by on the other side.
We make our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ,
our loving Lord and Saviour.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
We have a gospel to proclaim,
good news for all throughout the earth;
the gospel of a Saviour’s name:
we sing his glory, tell his worth.
Now we rejoice to name him King:
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
This gospel-message we proclaim:
we sing his glory, tell his worth.
Edward Joseph Burns (b. 1938)