Father Damien or Saint Damien of Molokai, was a Catholic priest from Belgium and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SS.CC.). He was recognized for his ministry, which he led from 1873 until his death in 1889, in Hawaii for people with leprosy.
He taught the Catholic faith to the people of Hawaii and also cared for the patients and he established leaders within the community to build houses, schools, roads, hospitals, and churches. He dressed residents' ulcers, built a reservoir, made coffins, dug graves, providing both medical and emotional support.
After eleven years caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of lepers Father Damien contracted leprosy. He continued with his work despite the infection but finally succumbed to the disease on 15 April 1889.
Today, people are mostly known by what they do rather than who they really are. They say I am a lawyer, architect, carpenter, cleaner or whatever. We are more focussed on status and possessions.
Can you imagine, at the time of the Bible story we've just read, people announcing themselves as "Unclean ... Unclean ..." to warn others not to come too near?
What if this happened to you? Instead of introducing yourself to someone you've just met by giving your name. Or by saying what you do in life. You announce yourself by saying "Keep away. I am unclean. I am a threat to you". You are known by your condition, not by who you really are. No matter who you were in the past, how successful or popular you were; right now you are someone to be avoided.
Yet, in this Gospel story, Jesus astonishes everyone by allowing this leper to approach Him. He even touches him. Onlookers must have thought Jesus had gone mad. Jesus was taking a great risk here. Because according to the law, if an unclean person touches or is touched by a clean person, then the clean person becomes unclean; and he too should be cast away from society. That is why Jesus says to the man after He healed him, say nothing to anyone about this. But the man is so overwhelmed by his healing that he tells everyone. And Jesus has to move away from that area and go travel and preach His mission elsewhere.
See the same story in Mark 1:40-45, where it reads, "But the man went out and openly began to proclaim and spread the news. Consequently, Jesus could no longer enter a town in plain view, but He stayed out in solitary places."
When Jesus approached him, the man, no doubt confused, hesitantly pleads, "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean."
Note ... "if you choose". Not "if you can" or "please make me clean"; but "if you choose".
The man knows in his heart that Jesus is all-powerful. That Jesus can perform miracles and can heal him. He no doubt has heard many stories about Jesus. He probably saw Him perform miracles.
Yet he approaches Jesus and whilst seeking for a miraculous healing he adds the conditional, "if you choose".
The leper accepts unconditionally those words in the Lord's Prayer: "Thy will be done!" Do we ever do that? Let's pause and think about this for a while.
Jesus is touched by the leper's faith and heals him.
Do we, when we pray and ask God for favours, or whatever else, ask Him that His will for us, or our loved ones be done? Or do we command Him to do what we ask for?
Is our prayer: Speak Lord your servant is listening.
Listen Lord, your master is speaking.