In today’s Gospel we are reminded that sometimes the mission of spreading the Good News takes unexpected turns or hits snags. Word of of Our Lord’s miraculous healing abilities starts to spread despite his efforts, and now even when he goes off to a deserted place, people come looking. Our Lord has come to heal the sick and infirm, so why is he avoiding the crowds? In assuming human nature Our Lord works miracles, but also carries out his mission in a human way. If there’s a danger of being swamped, it has to be addressed, because it will hinder his mission, not help it.
The leper healed today was ecstatic over being healed, but did not work with Our Lord, and, inadvertently, worked against him. We forget sometimes that the Lord doesn’t just work flashy miraculous things in our lives: he gives us our existence, our daily bread, help against the evil in the world, and the truth that will set us free. Like the Israelites in today’s First Reading, many of the people seeking Our Lord in the desert wanted nothing other than a quick fix to an immediate problem, avoiding any other obligations or attachments. Just like the Israelites in today’s First Reading treated the ark of God (a.k.a. the ark of the covenant) as an automatic Win-the-Battle card, Our Lord knows those people in today’s Gospel have a deeper need that they are not addressing: the need for friendship and communion with God to be truly healed and whole. The Israelites took God for granted one time too many, and Our Lord let them be defeated and lose the very sign of his presence among them to the Philistines to show them they had not been acting uprightly toward him. Our Lord heals those people who come to him, but he also knows that for many it will only be a band aid for something deeper to be addressed and changed in their lives, something he has come to address and to fix definitively.
We shouldn’t be discouraged when our own efforts to continue Our Lord’s mission hit snags or take unexpected turns. With Our Lord’s help, let’s be attentive to what others need in order to be cured–communion with God, not just getting caught up in addressing specific symptoms–a handout, a kind word, a helping hand. Let’s not neglect symptoms, but also focus on cures, spurred by compassion and aided by grace in imitation of Our Lord.