It is a very sad day for Israel today as we read in our First Reading: “The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent. It was a disastrous defeat, in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured.” However, it isn’t the defeat that makes the account miserable; it is precisely why the Chosen People were crushed in a battle that should have been won. Arrogance, plain and simple. The Lord permitted them to be defeated today because of the swollen, egotistical and misguided, misinformed confidence which insanely believed that God’s will must surely reflect their own, as they carry the ark of the Lord onto the battlefield against the Philistines. Their silliness is compounded and confirmed by their reaction after this stunning outcome; instead of humility and crying out to God for help, they lament in confusion. This is similar to those who attempt to put words in God’s mouth to justify their positions and biases and then don’t “get it” when everything backfires. Arrogance, as the proverb says, is a kingdom without a crown.
Then the Gospel places the capstone upon our reflection. The Law strictly forbade anyone from touching the leper. When Jesus touched and healed the one with this horrible, disfiguring disease, the humble, sorrowful but believing leper gave us the very opposite of arrogance and reminded us that no one should be deemed untouchable, nor are we ever capable of judging who is worthy of receiving God’s love and mercy: “‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.'” While it is very easy to sit on our self-made perches and self-taught premises and comment on the plight and weaknesses of everybody else except the one in the mirror, it is never sustainable. Defeat is inevitable. There is indeed a thin line between confidence and arrogance. It is called humility. Confidence smiles. Arrogance smirks.
“The only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance.” Albert Einstein