Memorial of Saint, Irenaeus, bishop and martyr
(Genesis 17:1.9-10.15-22; Matthew 8:1-4)
St. Irenaeus of Lyons has been called the greatest biblical theologian in history. He was, in fact, first a missionary to France. True to his calling, he worked in the lingua franca which was Celtic and died a martyr’s death. Regarding his work as a biblical theologian, Irenaeus expounded on the critical biblical insight that God created the world good. He wrote how human sin distorted that goodness, but now that Jesus has rooted out sin, humans can overcome any of sin’s residual effects. We might see this lesson in the gospel reading today.
Jesus has just delivered his gospel of grace in the Sermon on the Mount. As he descends his pulpit, he meets a leper who begs Jesus to clean him. Leprosy is a disease that symbolizes sinfulness in that it eats away the goodness of the human body. The same grace proclaimed in the gospel Jesus preached now eradicates the leprosy of sin.
In living the gospel of grace, we too are cleansed of sin – not just on the surface but inside. When we love God and neighbor from the heart and with good deeds, we shine like the stars with God’s goodness.