In today's Gospel, Jesus makes it very clear that simply listening to His words, believing them on some level, and calling Him “Lord” isn't enough. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’” He explains to His disciples, “will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in Heaven.” Even performing miracles in Jesus' name is not sufficient, particularly if they are performed with faulty motives like gaining power or fame.
Jesus expects action. He wants a lived faith, a faith that both believes in Him and obeys Him, a faith that works, a faith that grows, a faith that loves, a faith that takes Jesus' teaching and actively applies to daily living. This is the faith of the man who builds his house on a rock. He has a firm foundation. His faith is grounded and strong, and it is much less likely to be blown away in times of trial. This is a faith that lasts. This is a faith that accepts God's sanctifying grace and holds onto it securely all the way to Heaven.
Friday – A Beautiful Encounter
The leper bows down before Jesus, his heart filled with hope. He has heard of this Man, of His teachings and His miracles. He recognizes that if anyone can help him, if anyone can make him clean, if anyone can restore him to his place in the community, it is Jesus. He expresses his hope simply, humbly, and honestly: “Lord, if You wish, You can make me clean.” He doesn't demand. He doesn't beg. He just states a fact.
Jesus looks at the leper with great love. Then He reaches out and touches him, not caring a bit if this loving gesture technically makes Him just as unclean as the leper. This is one case when compassion trumps rules. “I will do it,” Jesus says. “Be made clean.” And the leper is clean. Just like that. His whole life changes in an instant.
The now-former-leper's heart soars within him. He falls at Jesus' feet, hardly able to express his gratitude. Jesus smiles and says to him, “See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The leper wonders how he will keep this amazing encounter to himself, but he knows he will obey Jesus. He will go and show himself to the priest because that will be his ticket back into Jewish life. He will be able to worship in the Temple again. He will be able to live and work with his family. He won't be alone anymore. No, he will never be alone again. He looks into Jesus' eyes and had a hunch that this would prove far more true than he could ever imagine.
Saturday – Laughter
Sometimes God's plan can seem a little silly to us. We wonder what He's up to and how He's ever going to make things work out in our lives. Our vision is so limited, so narrow that we just can't see and understand what He's doing. And sometimes, we just laugh rather helplessly, more at ourselves than at Him, because we don't know what else to do or how else to respond.
That's what Sarah does in today's first reading. Three men (probably really angels) appear at Abraham's tent one day. He jumps up immediately to offer them food and hospitality, which the men graciously accept. As Sarah is making the meal, she listens to the men talk and hears one of them say, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.” Sarah laughs. She can't help it. The whole idea seems quite ridiculous to her. It's not that she doesn't trust God; after all, she's out here in the middle of nowhere because of a message from God. But she just can't see how God could make her a mother. No, it just couldn't be. So she laughs.
The mysterious man doesn't get angry at Sarah's laughter or even at her denial of her laughter (it was rather embarrassing to be caught at it!). He merely reminds her that nothing is too marvelous for God to accomplish, and he reiterates his prediction: “At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a son.” Much to Sarah's surprise, and delight, his words will soon be proven true.