Art: Leper who thanked Jesus by John Steel
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 144
Reading 1 2 Kgs 5:14-17
Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”
Elisha replied, “As the LORD lives whom I serve, I will not take it;” and despite Naaman’s urging, he still refused. Naaman said: “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer
Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Reading 2 2 Tm 2:8-13
Beloved: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.
Gospel Lk 17:11-19
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
We are invited to reflect on our own faith at this time of year. Do we want great and marvelous actions from God or are we content with the small touches of love that He normally gives to us? Do we give thanks each day for the wonder of being able to live and to love and to serve others?
Faith does not have to be some great effort on our part. It is simply looking around us and believing that there is a God who created all of this, who continues to create all of this and who loves us and invites us to share His life. Okay, that is a fairly big step and lots of people simply cannot take such a step. Perhaps we can just begin by believing that there is some force behind all that we see and live in our lives. Perhaps we can believe that there is something, even if we cannot bring ourselves to believe in someone.
For us who do believe, we can ask to renew the miracle of faith in our lives by seeing the wonder of all of this creation and the wonder of a daily gift of life. Far too easily we take our faith for granted and then cease to be in awe. Really, it is so incredible that God loves us and each day gives us life and invites us to share His life. In it incredible that we are invited to eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus Christ. If we knew the power of this mystery, we would surely die immediately.
Giving thanks should be part of our daily life as well. We don’t have to have something special happen in our lives in order to give thanks. Thanksgiving is what Eucharist is about and it is what our daily living can reflect each day. Sometimes life can only be endured. Yet even then, we can thank God for the gift of endurance. Sometimes our personal pains and sufferings threaten to overwhelm us. Even then we can give thanks that He is with us.
We can learn to offer whatever happens to us each day for the sake of others, both the good and the bad. Saint Paul puts it this way: I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen. We are invited to pray for all others and especially for the members of the household of the faith. We are always able to live our lives for others, no matter where we are or what we are doing. Because of that, we can always give thanks.
My sisters and brothers, let us rejoice today because we are called to share in the very life of God. Let us give thanks and rejoice in the Lord. Our faith saves us.
A clear lesson is that Jesus expects us to show gratitude. In the account of the Thankful Leper, Jesus is clearly angry at the unthankfulness of the nine lepers who didn’t return. We must train ourselves to show thanks, to give thanks, to be filled with thanksgiving. Without being thankful disciples we won’t be pleasing to Jesus.
But this thankfulness is sometimes time-consuming. Sometimes it requires going out of our way, delaying some of our urgent appointments. A life of thanksgiving is a life of prayer. Prayer first. Before going to the priests to be declared healed. Prayer first. Before the things we have to do. Prayer first. Before we get immersed in our everyday activities. Prayer first. Thanksgiving first.
Finally, gratitude is an important component in our salvation. Were all ten lepers healed? Yes. Were they all saved? Yes, in the sense that they were rescued from their disease. But not in the sense of drawing close to God in thankfulness and dependence. The nine were saved physically but not spiritually. “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asks. Healing that doesn’t bring a person to Jesus is incomplete and stunted. A healing ministry cannot stand alone. It is part of the wholeness of salvation that God desires. That’s why our ministry should include healing but in the context of a ministry of full salvation followed by the healed person beginning to follow Jesus as his disciple in the fellowship of the church.
“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him — and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?’ ” (17:15-17)
God grant that we will on occasion be thankful enough to be boisterously thankful. Thankful enough to throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet. And thankful enough to voice Jesus’ question as our own, “Where are the other nine?” and help them find their way home, too.
Both stories of today’s scripture readings touch on leprosy. Leprosy is not just a physical illness but it affects the core of the person, his emotions and his relationships with his loved ones. A leper in Jesus’ time, because of the contagious nature of his illness, had to be removed from society and live in the desert, away from the people. It was a most painful and slow way of dying. To but alienated and cut off from our loved ones is the most unbearable experience of life.
Of course, the scripture readings want us to go beyond human relationships to that of our relationship with God. Leprosy is but a symbol of the sins of humanity. Like leprosy, sins affect and infect us slowly. Sins eat us up gradually, often without us being aware of it. Because of our sins, we are cut off not just from people we love but also from God who is the source of life and love. To be away from God, the source of life and love, is to lose our identity, our calling, and our destiny. Those who live in sin have no peace and direction in life. Such a person is never at peace, even if he has all the things in this world; never happy because he has no real loving relationships with anyone.
This accounts for the gospel story of why only one was healed even though all were cured. Only the Samaritan was healed, as Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.” To be saved is to be healed. But to be cured does not mean one is healed or saved. Cure involves external healing but being healed is holistic, when a person is healed emotionally, physically and spiritually. The fact that the other nine did not go beyond themselves shows that they were still self-centered and cared only for themselves. They did not give thanks to God or to Jesus, forgetting them so easily. The Samaritan however came back to give thanks to God. His deep appreciation for Jesus demonstrates his gratitude towards God and those who have helped him.
Indeed, a grateful man is always a happy man. Gratitude is one of the most important virtues for happiness. Only those who are grateful are contented because for them everything is a bonus. They are never demanding, choosy, complaining or take things for granted. Instead they are always so grateful for whatever they have and whatever is given to them. Such people express their thanks not only in words but in actions. In their gratitude they, too, return what they have received. This was true in the case of St Paul when he experienced the mercy of God for him even though he persecuted the Church. He wrote, “Remember the Good News that I carry. It is on account of this that I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal – but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.”
An ungrateful person on the contrary is never happy. He is always complaining, wanting more, never satisfied with whatever is provided and given. He is always looking for something better and often is jealous, envious and resentful of those who are better off. Instead of counting his blessings, he focuses on what he is lacking or what he does not have. Such ingrates are impossible to please and make life miserable for whoever has to serve them. The off-spring of ingratitude is a heart lacking in charity, tolerance and humility. They are presumptuous and never grateful to anyone. That is why we need the healing of the heart and the soul before the healing of the body. Indeed the other nine lepers were cured of their leprosy but their hearts were still as self-centered as ever.
Consequently, if we want to be happy in life, then we must turn to Jesus for holistic healing. Only Jesus can cure us from both physical and spiritual illnesses. The sin of leprosy cannot be healed by man, not by acquiring power, political connections, and money but only in Christ. Faith in Jesus, as the gospel tells us, is the cause of our healing. Faith heals because faith restores our relationship with God, which is the basis for restoring our relationships with our fellowmen. To have faith in God like the Samaritan is to have a relationship with Jesus. Only he could recognize Jesus as one coming from God. By so doing, he also renders obedience and worship to Him. Faith presumes openness to the grace of God. Since grace is a free gift and not earned, such a person is always thankful to God for all the blessings he has received. He is grateful for his health, friendship, work and the ability to serve. Through gratitude and openness to God, he also opens himself to his fellowmen.
Today, we are called to learn from the examples of Elijah and the pagan Army Commander. When he was healed, he returned to give thanks to Elijah. He wanted to give him gifts but the prophet rejected his gifts because he knew that all his gifts of healing and prophecy were gifts from God. These gifts given to him were meant for service of God and man. The gratitude of the prophet was expressed by his refusal to accept the gifts from Naaman since he claimed no credit. Indeed, whatever we have, we have nothing to boast about except the mercy and goodness of God. Everything we have received comes from God’s providence and mercy. So let us use our wealth, talents and our resources to glorify Him through our generosity and service to others.
We too can learn from St Paul as well. He showed his gratitude to God’s mercy by being His apostle of the Good News. His way of giving thanks was to witness to Christ’s love and mercy both in preaching and in deeds. St Paul was ever ready even to be imprisoned and die for Christ out of love and gratitude for His mercy and love for him. We too must not allow the Good News we have received from God to be chained by our negligence and selfishness. We too must announce to the world how great and wonderful our God is.
Yes, by giving thanks to God, we will then never forget His works and love for us in our lives. The Eucharist itself means thanksgiving. If the Lord Jesus asks us to celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him, it is because He wants us to recall His love, passion, death and resurrection for us so that we will never lose hope in times of trials and sufferings. But contemplating on His passion, death and resurrection, we will always be full of joy and hope even when we have to suffer for Him and with Him. Thanksgiving, which is the meaning of the word, “Eucharist”, is for the salvation wrought by Christ through the paschal mystery. The mass therefore is a commemoration, a memorial of His passion, death and resurrection. By giving thanks to the Lord and the Father, we will then share His Spirit of love and unity.
Being aware of the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist is what will energize us and keep us going each day, dying to self and living for others. Contemplating on His passion and death will give us the strength to endure the sufferings and trials that come from love. This is what St Paul meant when he said, “Remember the Good News that I carry. ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David.’” If Jesus as a human being could suffer for us for the love of His Father, we too can suffer for those whom God loves as well.
Let us be like St Paul in giving witness to Christ’s saving love in our lives. As he said, we must not allow the Good News to be chained. Regardless of whatever situation we are in, whether old or young, mobile or immobile, talented or not, rich or poor, we can proclaim Christ through words and works of love and encouragement. Let us use our lives to be one of joy and encouragement to others. Indeed, the book of Proverbs says, “A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Pro 17:17). When we encourage each other, we become friends, just like the Samaritan leper who was among the rest of the lepers who were Jews even though they were normally hostile towards each other. Friendship is often borne from trials and common suffering. When we suffer together, we tend to empathize with each other and feel for each other.
By so doing, we actually heal ourselves and save ourselves. By not focusing on ourselves but on others, God will bless us abundantly. Indeed, the greatest joy of life is to give our life in service for others. In blessing and making others happy, we receive double blessings and joy. Like the healed lepers who were grateful, we will never be the same again. Through gratitude their lives transformed others and most of all themselves in a radical way seen in the life of St Paul.
What a tragedy to receive a life from God and to use it for ourselves. God has given us health, talents and resources to be shared with others so that our joy can increase. So in celebrating life, it is not a question of how long we live but how well we live. Even if our life is short but if lived intensely in love and service, just like many of the Saints, St Theresa of the Child Jesus and St Dominic Savio, we too will find the fullness of life, here on earth and in heaven. What a shame that some of us are more concerned about how long we live instead of how well and deeply we live. Let us employ whatever days we have left on this earth to touch lives, heal hearts and empower people whom we meet each day.
Tags: 2 Kgs 5:14-17, 2 Tm 2:8-13, a person is always thankful to God for all the blessings he has received, “abundant” life, believing that there is a God who created all of this, care for others, Elisha, Eucharist, faith, Galilee, give thanks to Elijah, God, God loves us and invites us to share His life, God will bless us abundantly, Good News, grateful, gratitude, he could accept the meekness of our God, he was clean of his leprosy, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen., If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, Jesus, Jesus Christ risen from the dead, leprosy, Let us give thanks and rejoice in the Lord, live our lives for others, Lk 17:11-19, Naaman, Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel, October 13 2013, Our faith saves us, Please accept a gift from your servant, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 98, Samaria, Samaritan, serve others, service to others, Sing to the LORD a new song for he has done wondrous deeds, suffering, Thankful Leper, Thanksgiving is what Eucharist is about, The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power, the saving power of faith, turn to Jesus for holistic healing, unite your suffering to Christ's, we are called to share in the very life of God, We are invited to pray for all others and especially for the members of the household of the faith, Where are the other nine?, Your faith has saved you