O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Creator of the heavens,
who led the Magi by a star
to worship the Christ-child:
guide and sustain us,
that we may find our journey’s end
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sing praise to the Lord, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion;
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates
and has blest your children within you.
He has established peace in your borders
and satisfies you with the finest wheat.
He sends forth his command to the earth
and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool
and scatters the hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts down his hailstones like morsels of bread;
who can endure his frost?
He sends forth his word and melts them;
he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and judgements to Israel.
He has not dealt so with any other nation;
they do not know his laws.
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.
Once, when Jesus was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’ Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one. ‘Go’, he said, ‘and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.’ But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.
Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’
One of the criticisms that is often levelled at those who dwell in the more affluent regions of the world is that they have an over-inflated and unjustifiable sense of entitlement. So often we hear people speaking of their ‘rights’, whilst giving no sense of the responsibilities they have to those alongside whom they live and work. It is true that, because we were fortunate enough to be born in an economically secure part of the world, our government has been able to afford us protections that are enshrined in law as rights. But, of course, they are not just ‘rights’, they are also privileges. Sadly, and despite the great bounty God continues to bestow on humanity, those rights and privileges are not shared by the majority. Even within our own prosperous society there are those who have very little, or nothing. Such people, alongside many, many others in the world, know nothing of the rights and privileges many of us take for granted.
At this stage I feel it is important to make it clear that I am not making any sort of political statement, rather I am pursuing an important theme that is contained within today’s reading. Jesus said to the leprous man: I do choose. Be made clean. The man covered with leprosy would, like everyone else in the region have heard of the many who had already been healed by Jesus. He may even have felt justified in assuming that if only he could get to the front of the queue, well, he had earned the ‘right’ to be healed as well.
Of course, Jesus’ gift of healing did (and does) not work like that. This seems to be something that the man covered with leprosy knew and understood. He did not approach Jesus with a sense of entitlement. Instead he bowed his face to the ground and begged. The man covered with leprosy knew and understood that he was asking for a great gift from God. He knew that he had no ‘right’ to receive such a gift. But, he also knew that he was able to ask and leave the response up to God’s great wisdom and compassion.
We know from scripture that Jesus hears and answers our prayers. But … we also know that that is a gift from God, a gift that is undeserved and that is certainly not a ‘right’. We are called to set aside our pride and our sense of entitlement. Instead we have to admit our weakness as we take our prayers to God in humility and faith. Then Jesus hears and Jesus heals.
Today’s reading does not end there, of course. After healing the humble leprous man, Jesus sent him to the priest to make his thank offering to God. From being an untouchable outcast he became one who was empowered and equipped to live a very different life, a life created out of God’s good grace and love.
So … let us set aside our sense of entitlement and self-interest. Instead, let us admit our need and our weakness, and let us trust God to heal us and open a door on a new life. Let us go forward in faith, hoping and praying that we may come to hear Jesus say: I do choose. Be made clean.
Prayers of Intercession
For the cleansing of all that is unclean in the Church and in the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Give to all Christian people the wisdom that discerns when to speak out and when to be silent; when to be active and when to be still. Fill us with the divine compassion which offers healing and salvation.
Have mercy on the outcasts of the world, the refugees and the homeless, those who are shunned for their race or their faith. Change the hearts of the oppressors and persecutors, that all people may value one another as children of God.
Give grace to us, our families and friends, to hear the calls of distress and seek to help. Guide the members of our community who work for the relief of those in need.
We pray for the sick, especially those whose affliction makes them shunned and despised. We pray for doctors and nurses working with difficult and prolonged cases.
Receive in mercy the souls of the departed, that healed from all the pain and trouble of this world, and cleansed from all their sins, they may rejoice in the company of the saints and the presence of the Lord. Grant to us at our end the blessing of eternal life.
May our prayers be accepted in the name of Christ whose compassion never fails.
Prayer for the week
who by the light of a star
led wise men to Jesus:
by the light of your Word
lead us and all nations to him,
the Saviour of the world;
that together we may bring him our best gifts,
and pay homage to him as our King.
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.
O Christ, the Healer, we have come
to pray for health, to plead for friends.
How can we fail to be restored,
when reached by love that never ends?
How strong, O Lord, are our desires,
how weak our knowledge of ourselves!
Release in us those healing truths
unconscious pride resists or shelves.
Grant that we all, made one in faith,
in your community may find
the wholeness that, enriching us,
shall reach the whole of humankind.
Fred Pratt Green (1903–2000)