3rd Sunday after Epiphany
In the spirit of Epiphany-tide, this Sunday’s Mass opens with an invitation to worship God in unison with His holy angels. It’s an opportunity for us to reflect upon what adoration is and why it is so important.
For many people today, to worship is to come together to proclaim a common faith, to encourage one another in fidelity to what we believe. Those are two very important things, for man is a social animal, and he must manifest his faith through word of mouth. The faith cannot be only an interior matter; it must show itself on the outside. Strictly speaking, however, to profess the faith and to adore are two different concepts.
It is faith in God, the One, True God, Creator of all things, that leads to this fundamental attitude called adoration, and which we can define as the act of bearing witness to the excellence of God and of our submission to Him by means of bodily actions, such as a bow, a genuflexion, a prostration, a sign of the cross. These bodily signs are important, and it is precisely the reason for which the sacred liturgy, especially in its traditional form, is replete with them. In both East and West, from the most remote antiquity, all Catholic rites multiply bows, kisses, genuflexion, prostrations, because we are body and soul. It is not enough to say in our heart that we believe. Our body must follow suit.
In the holy Gospels we have multiple examples of this attitude, and the leper of today’s Gospel is one of them. As Our Lord is coming down from the Sermon on the Mount, this poor man, who was an outcast from society, comes and prostrates himself before Jesus. He asks simply for an act of the will: Lord, if you but will it, you can make me clean. And the Lord replies simply: I do. Be made clean. Man adores, and God cleanses. The purifying aspect of adoration is here seen in all its luminous simplicity. Man adores, and God cleanses. Let us learn, my dear friends, how to adore God, how to prostrate ourselves before Him, acknowledging our sinfulness, our nothingness, the absolute need we have of Him.
It is good for a man to prostrate before God, to bear witness to our total and absolute dependence on God, to our submission to Him. In this we are privileged to unite with the angels who are pure spirits, and who are in continual acts of praise and adoration. Man is truly great when he is on his knees.
Such an attitude will help us avoid being like those people who believe in God, but for whom things are pretty much like this: there is our world full of ourselves and other people and so many other things, and then there is, somewhere out there, God, who every now and then makes inroads into our life. In reality it is not like that at all. In reality, there is God, the eternal, the almighty, the living one. Forever and ever there is God. Our universe, our galaxies, all that we can know about what exists, is only a tiny spec of dust in the great world of God. That puts things in perspective, and it helps us see the beauty of the leper’s gesture of humility, like that of the centurion as well, who simply beats his breast and acknowledges he is not worthy that the Lord come to his home.
May the holy angels inspire and teach us, they in whose presence we are blessed to sing the praises of God Almighty.