The First Reading today narrates the fall of Zedekiah. It skipped from yesterday’s First Reading that says Zedekiah did evil before the Lord according to all that Jehoachin had done, and the Lord was angry against Jerusalem and against Judah, until he cast them out from his face. Zedekiah also rebelled against the king of Babylon. This rebellion caused the king of Babylon to besiege Jerusalem which lasted for a little more than a year. This caused famine in Jerusalem. When the Babylonian army broke through the walls of Jerusalem, Zedekiah with his soldiers and family tried to escape but the Babylonian army was able to capture him. They brought him to the king of Babylon, who killed Zedekiah’s sons before their father and plucked his eyes out and sent him to exile. A few months later, the king of Babylon sent the captain if his bodyguards to burn the Temple, the king’s house, all the houses of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was completely destroyed.
What happened to Zedekiah physically will happen to us spiritually if we continue to do evil before the eyes of the Lord. In the Gospel today, Jesus shows us God is not the cause of our suffering. When a leper came to him and said Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean. Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean.” We see that the will of God is to give us healing. God wants to restore us to fullness, perhaps not physical fullness, but he wants us to be restored back to live with him for eternity. The sufferings we have are not caused by God. Zedekiah and the other kings of Judah before him brought destruction to Jerusalem. In the case of Zedekiah, he caused his own suffering but for his sons and the people of the kingdom, it was his sin and the sins of his ancestors that caused the suffering. Generally speaking, sin is the cause of suffering, sometimes our own sin, but often the sins of others. Since suffering is caused by sin, it is never from God.
However, God uses sufferings for his purpose. In the case of Judah, it was this exile that forced the people to remember God, as the Responsorial Psalm tells us: let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you. God allows sufferings to happen in our lives, to call us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and to call us to a deeper relationship with him. Sufferings reveal what the Gospel acclamation tells us: Christ bore our sickness, and endured our suffering. Jesus took on in his flesh, all the punishments due to us because of our sins. This shows the infinite love of God. And God wants us to know his immense love so we can turn to him and realize, as the Entrance Antiphon tells us: The Lord became my protector. He brought me out to a place of freedom; he saved me because he delighted in me. If we do not suffer, we will not see how God protects us, how he leads us to freedom and how he saves us. He does all these, not because of what we have done. He does all these because he delights in us! Just as a father delights in seeing their infant child, God delights in looking at us. We are always before his eyes. Just as a father wants to show his children how strong he is, God delights in showing us his power. Why? Because it is by realizing his love and power that we can trust him and have life in him!
The Good News is that despite the total destruction of Jerusalem, seventy years later, the people were allowed to go back and rebuild it. Whatever we are suffering today, when we turn back to God, he will restore what we have lost. He is the God of second chances.
If our life is a mess today, if we have lost everything and are worried of what will happen in the next few days, we can only turn to Jesus and ask: Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean. When Jesus makes us clean, he heals us and forgives our sins, he restores us to a life with him. He leads us to freedom, not to do what I want, but to be who he wants me to be. Come to Jesus. Surrender yourself to him. He loves you. He delights in you. He welcomes you home.
Lord Jesus, when all is lost, when I am lost and do not know what to do, when I have nothing to hope for, I turn to you. Do you love me? Do you really delight in me, despite my faults and my sins? Are you welcoming me home? Lord, show me all these are true. Open my eyes to see all these in the midst of my situation. Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean. Here I am, I come to do your will. Take my life and let me live according to your will.