THE leper, whose healing is recounted today in the Gospel narrative, is the image of a soul . . . whom sin, and especially the sin of impurity has stained. There is a striking resemblance between the consequences of leprosy and the consequences of the sin of impurity. Leprosy, as it is depicted in our sacred books, produced four effects on the unfortunate victim. First, it corrupted the blood and attacked the very sources of life; 2nd it disfigured the body, and made it an object of disgust; 3d, it condemned the leper to live far from the society of men; 4th, it made his society dangerous because of the contagion. You shall find these different effects in sin, and especially in the sin of impurity.
First Point.—As leprosy corrupts the blood, so the sin of impurity corrupts the heart and vitiates the very life of the soul. It not only attacks the surface, but it attacks the most intimate sources of spiritual life. Under its dominion the soul quickly loses its noblest faculties; memory is weakened intelligence enfeebled, and the noblest faculties 'are compelled to give way to ignoble instincts; there is no progress in science; application to study is impossible, no grand and elevated thoughts; the mind is narrowed, and genius becomes extinct.
In the heart the effects are still more deplorable. It perverts the most happy dispositions and develops
the most shameful desires; conscience is blunted and loses its first delicacy. The victim becomes indifferent to disorders the very thought of which was once revolting; a stupid carelessness succeeds to vivacity of faith and fervor and piety. The tastes, the inclinations, and the very character are changed. Sin has done in the soul what leprosy has done in the body; it has corrupted it at the foundation, it has vitiated the very sources of life.
Second Point.—As leprosy disfigures the body and makes it an object of horror and disgust, so sin disfigures our souls and makes them an object of disgust to the heart of God. You would understand this second effect of sin if you could understand the beauty of a soul in a state of grace, the splendor with which it shines, the glory which surrounds it, and the holy pleasure with which God regards it. This beauty, it is true, has nothing exterior, nothing sensible. The prophet tells us " that the glory of the daughter of Sion is within her." None of those splendid rays fall on our mortal eyes, but the splendor is no less real. It is that which gives a charm to infancy, it is that refreshing grace which exercises over our hearts an empire as sweet as it is irresistible. To know the price of a soul adorned by grace, we must consult the Holy Scriptures; for what is more reliable than the testimony of uncreated wisdom?
Hear, therefore, what the Holy Spirit says of a soul ornamented with grace and the esteem which He has for it: "I who am your God, I who can deceive none, nor can I be deceived, I declare to you that I only consider silver as dross when compared with a just soul." And is this enough? No; bring together
all the gold that is in the bowels of the earth: God considers all that as only a little grain of sand in comparison with a just soul. There are indeed many precious stones in the depths of the sea; they are so beautiful that they serve as ornaments for vanity, and heighten by their splendor the glory of a diadem; but when God compares them with a just soul He finds the soul a thousand times more precious. It is a grand thing to rule over an extensive kingdom, to be seated on a brilliant throne, but all that is nothing when compared with a soul adorned by grace. In a word, unite all glory, all beauty, all grandeur, yet all these cannot approach the beauty, the merit, the excellence of a soul which is clothed with grace and empurpled by the blood of the Son of God made man.
Sin, as a hideous leprosy, strips the soul of its beauty and makes it an object of disgust and horror in the eyes of God. It is with tears in their eyes that the prophets deplore the unhappy state of a soul stained and disfigured by sin. Jeremias exclaims: "How has the pure gold been changed into vile metal ! All the glory of the daughter of Sion has departed !" Unfortunate soul ! Who shall give to my eyes two sources of tears to weep for thy misfortune ?
Third Point.—The law required that every leper should be driven from the people and separated from his fellows as an unclean being. This is also the destiny of the sinner. As long as a man is in the state of grace, he is the child of God, the heir to heaven, the co-heir with Jesus. What a dignity! He enjoys all the rights of the children of the Church, he shares in all the goods she possesses, he participates in the prayers of the saints in heaven and of the just on earth: he has a right to the merits of the august sacrifice, to all the indulgences which the Church draws from her treasury. What riches! But by sinning he loses everything—he loses his titles of child of God and citizen of heaven, he is deprived of all the merits he has acquired, and even of the right to acquire new merits. True, indeed, he is not cut off from the bosom of the Church; he is always a member of it, but he is a dead member. He receives also certain graces, but they are weak graces, which his bad dispositions render sterile. In a word, he appears living in the eyes of men, but in the eyes of God he is dead. Oh, how horrible is this state, and how much you are to be pitied if you do not understand this misfortune!
Fourth Point.—There is a fourth effect common to sin and to leprosy: it is contagion. Leprosy is a malady to be feared so much because it is contagious. The leper communicated his malady to all who approached him, unless suitable precautions were taken. This explains the severity of the laws regarding it and the reason of its universal repulsion. Sin is also contagious, and is communicated and spread by bad words and by bad examples. A vicious friend shall lead you to vice; his corrupting discourse shall rob you of your faith, little by little; his undue confidences shall initiate you into the knowledge of evil ; his insidious words shall cause you to love him, and his conduct shall justify him in your eyes.
Fear, then, the influence of a friend who is not most virtuous; break away from his society; fly from him as you would fly from the sight of a serpent; this is the advice which the Holy Spirit gives you by the mouth of the wise man. In giving you this advice, he would teach you that a vicious friend contains within him a subtle poison, which escapes from his whole conduct, insinuates itself into the faculties of the soul, and carries with it ruin and death.
O my God, preserve my soul from the leprosy of sin; do not permit that, in becoming Thy enemy, I should lose that which in Thy eyes constitutes my true beauty, and that which can alone give me rights to heaven. Oh, may I never become for others the occasion of scandal or ruin ! But if I have had the misfortune to fall into sin, give me the strength to rise again, and to find in a generous confession both happiness and life, by obtaining Thy friendship again.
Source: Short Instructions for Every Sunday of the Year and the Principal Feasts, Imprimatur 1897