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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Today’s Reading | Matthew 8:1–4

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (NRSV)

This brief, deceptively simple story packs in a lot of different themes: the humble lack of self-entitlement in the leper’s request; the immediate grace with which Jesus offers his help, with no expectation of recompense or public recognition; the radical power of physical touch not only to heal but to erase boundaries; the fact that we have all, at times, felt unclean in one way or another, longing for both physical and spiritual cleansing.

For me, the thread that ties all these ideas together lies in the leper’s exhortation, “If you will.” Grace is an act of will: each of us has the will to choose how and why we seek or bestow grace. We have the will to make sure that we are not careless, frivolous, judgmental, or self-aggrandizing about how we do so. Do we ask for what we truly need, or merely what we wish we had? Do we believe we know what we deserve, or do we have the grace to accept what we receive? Do we truly see and touch the people we help, or do we offer them our crumbs unthinkingly, patting ourselves on the back as we move on without another thought?

We have all been the leper, seeking succor, and we have all, like Jesus, found ourselves in the position to grant the same to someone in need. It is in our will to engage wholeheartedly as agents of God’s grace that we achieve the true cleansing that we seek.

Lord, today let me be guided by your will, so that I may choose to act with a grace that is an extension of your own. Amen.

Written by Risa McDonell, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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