13 October 201928 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
28 Ordinary Time
28 Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 17:11-19

The rabbi asked the prophet, "Where shall I find the Messiah?" He responded, "At the city gates among the lepers." The rabbi queried, "What is he doing there?" The prophet answered, "He changes their bandages." (Laurence Kushner)

The Nazarene was on His final trip to Jerusalem. He was an outlaw. There was an all points bulletin out for Him. He was avoiding the main roads and moving only at night. He was eating cold food. He was afraid to light a fire. Bounty hunters were everywhere. He had to be spent.

He came to an unnamed village. Scholars feel it was probably El Gannim. The town still exists. The ruins of an ancient church built to commemorate this miracle are there.

He dared to stay in the village openly because it is believed the inhabitants were friendlies. Probably He had already worked miracles there. He would be able to sleep indoors between sheets in a clean bed and enjoy a home-cooked meal.

The lepers of this tale used His name. This supports the theory that He was well known in the area. Leprosy or Hansen's disease was then commonplace. It is not a pretty disease. It can destroy one's features. What AIDS is to our culture, leprosy was to theirs. Leprosy resisted all cures until 1960.

These lepers must have had a tremendous faith in Him. They were asking for the cure of a disease they themselves considered incurable. We need such faith.

They met Him on the town outskirts. By law lepers were not allowed into the town proper. They were forced to wear shredded clothing and go without head cover despite the fierce sun. The object of all this was to make it easier for healthy people to give them wide berth. They had become non-persons. They were the walking dead.

It was amazing that they approached the Teacher. They would never have attempted that with another rabbi. Most rabbis of that period ran and hid when confronted by lepers. One confessed he threw rocks at them to clear his path. His actions were legal. What did these people see in the Messiah? He must have been a person most easy to walk up to. They sensed that he "had trained His heart to give sympathy and His hands to give help."

When the lepers came up to Him, the crowd about Him began looking for holes in the ground to crawl into. But, as the lepers suspected, Jesus held His ground. One can see why a Rembrandt is needed to paint such a picture.

Jesus introduced other healing miracles with certain preliminaries. Confer Mark 7: 31-37. Here He did no such thing. These people He felt had suffered long enough. He cleaned them of their foul disease on the spot. God is, as one pilgrim has told me, an active verb. Again we receive a rich insight into what makes the Christ tick. His precipitate action speaks pages about Him. Would that we might borrow His technique in our actions with others in pain.

He did more than cure these former lepers. He chatted with them. This was the first conversation they had with a non-leper in years. And in most probability He touched them and even stroked them. He did so in another such Gospel miracle. Check Matthew 8,1-4. Recall that line from the old negro spiritual, "What a friend we have in Jesus!" It no doubt sums up the attitude of the former lepers.

But only one leper, as we know, had the class to return after the miracle to thank Him. "He fell on his face at Jesus' feet," writes Luke, "and kept on thanking Him." The Nazarene was exhilarated by this fellow and crushed by the ingratitude of the others. Meister Eckhart wrote wisely, "The most important prayer in the world is just two words long: Thank you." Yet, we live in a society in which those words are coming to be used less frequently not only to God but to one another. May we copy the style of the grateful leper who returned! We should all reflect on the line that teaches, "God has two homes - one in heaven and the other in a thankful heart." The sage says we shall be Christians when we weep not because we have lost something but because we have been given so much.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
28 Ordinary Time
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:Are We One of the Nine or the One Out of the Ten?

The Gospel reading presents the healing of the ten lepers. Let's begin by picturing these ten men walking up to Jerusalem. They had gone to Jesus, but left, still lepers, with nothing more than his assurance that they were to present themselves to the priests as healed. He didn't heal them immediately. What must that walk up to the Temple Hill in Jerusalem been like? Some of them must have been limping with deformed legs, most likely relying on crutches. Some had lost fingers and even parts of their face. Many had horrible sores all over their bodies. They were hideous. All of them had bells. All were required to call out continually, "Unclean, unclean." The healthy would do everything possible to avoid them. That is why at the beginning of the Gospel the lepers stood off at a distance and called to Jesus to heal them.

But back to their journey to the priests, the very unlikely parade, walking, dragging probably, approaching the Temple. Did they all have faith, or were some of them going to the Temple because they thought they had nothing to lose? Their lives were horrible. What worse could happen to them? Did all believe, or were some of them just joining in with the others? We don't know. So they plodded on. I wonder when it was that they realized that they could walk easier. When was it that they saw that they were no longer deformed? When was it that their skin had healed? It had to be before they got to the Temple, because by the time the reached the Temple priests they were healed.

So why didn't all ten return to the Lord to give thanks to God? Why was it that nine never bothered? Perhaps some of them were angry. Angry that they had gotten so sick in the first place. Maybe they were so angry that they couldn't see their healing as a gift. They could only see their sickness as a curse. Maybe they were upset that they had missed so much in life. They were people who saw the glass as half empty, not half full. Or, maybe some of them were completely self-absorbed. Perhaps some were like little children who were never taught to say, "Thank you," as though they had a right to all good things in the world.

It is rather shocking to think that some people could be so angry, or so self-centered that they do not appreciate the gifts of the Lord. Sadly, that is exactly what happens. People who can only see the negatives in life, cannot appreciate the gifts of God. People who think they are the center of the world, cannot fathom why they should be grateful to anyone for what they think they have coming.

We should ask ourselves: Am I a positive person or a negative person? Do I usually see the good in life, or am I absorbed by the negative? When I recover from the flu or any sickness, do I thank God that I am feeling better, or am I upset that I felt so poorly before? When a former friend or an estranged relative wants to reconcile, am I willing to move on with the future, or do I stay mired in the past? When the pain of life has been removed, do I keep it alive in my mind by dwelling on the past?

We have been sick, and we have been healed. We have been estranged, and we have been re-united. We have been lost, and we have been found. Christians are optimists. If we are negative in certain areas of life, then we need to bring this very negativity to God. We need to ask Him for faith.

We have all had times of immaturity in our lives when we've convinced ourselves that we are the center of the universe. Now, it is perfectly acceptable for a baby to be self-absorbed. The baby's cries are the only way that we can be made aware of his or her needs. It is not acceptable for the rest of us to be self-absorbed. Does God owe us healing? Did God allow His Son to become one of us and then die for us because we had a right to salvation? Of course not. We are benefactors of a kind and compassionate God who really does love us, who really is "Our Father." We need to recognize His Gifts and thank Him.

One of those former lepers, a Samaritan, returned to the Lord. He was out of the mainstream, not even Jewish. He wasn't part of the chosen people. But he knew that God had chosen him. He knew that he received a grace from God. He knew that he didn't do anything to deserve this gift, but was the recipient of God's compassion. He wanted others to rejoice with Him. He wanted Jesus to know how grateful he was. He returned to thank the Lord.

Many times a child, particularly an older child, a Teen or a young adult, receives a great gift from his or her Mom or Dad, and then says, "What can I do to pay you back?" Inevitably, the parent responds, "I didn't do this for you because I want repayment. I did this because I love you. All I want is that you be good to your brothers and sisters," or perhaps, "All I want is that you be good to others like we were good to you."

That is all God wants from us. He wants us to show our gratitude by being good to our brothers and sisters, by being good to others as He has been good to us. You see, thanking God is not a matter of words or recited prayers. To thank God we have to treat others as He treated us, with compassion, mercy and love.

Were not all ten made clean? Where are the other nine? Where do we go when we realize that we have experienced Divine Love? Do we stay where we are? Do we walk backwards to where we were out of anger for our past? Or do we spread the Grace that we have received to others by our care and compassion? Are we one of the nine? Or are we the one out of the ten, the one who returned glorifying God with His life?

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
28 Ordinary Time
Increase Our Gratitude

Bottom line: By gratitude faith increases.

In today's Gospel Jesus heals ten lepers. One of them, a Samaritan, returns to thank him. Jesus says:

"Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"

So, one in ten. It seems about the same proportion today. People like myself remember the high attendance at Mass in the 50's. Since then we (and other religions) have experienced decline. For sure, some congregations have seen growth. We can learn from them. Still, we have to recognize the human tendency to take God for granted even after powerful experiences of grace.

To get people back to Mass we first need to face our own lack of gratitude. Eucharist after all means "to give thanks". Last year I started a gratitude journal. It contains a long list but I have to admit I can go days without reflecting on blessings I have received. I take them for granted. Not good.

I want to mention two blessings. They relate to the Called to Serve as Christ campaign. I mention them because for me the campaign is not about fund raising. It's about gratitude.

In the packet you received from Archbishop Etienne, it has an insert relating to our parish project - rectory renovation. St Mary of the Valley rectory is the best living situation I have had in my years as a priest. Out of gratitude I want to make some changes so I will be able to continue there as I age. I want to hand it on in good condition for a future priest. Probably half of each day I spend in the rectory: the chapel, bedroom, kitchen, even the exercise room. I am blessed to have a good living situation.

I am blessed also to be a member of the Seattle presbyterate. We have our problems including the competiveness that marks groups of men. Still, they have both encouraged and inspired me. I want them to have the best care as they, like me, face the challenge of aging. I am also concerned that our young priests will have a retirement and medical fund they can count on. And I am thankful Archbishop Sartain included religious sisters in this campaign.

It all comes down to gratitude. If we have grateful hearts the Mass, the Eucharist becomes joy, not drudgery. Our trials do not disappear but they take on meaning. Last week we said to Jesus, "Increase our faith". We could just as well say, "Increase our gratitude". By gratitude faith increases.

Jesus says as much to the Samaritan who returned to thank him. "Stand up," he says, "and go; your faith has saved you." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
28 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
28 Ordinary Time
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is often interesting when reading about one or other of Christ's healings to note that he very often forgives the sins of the sick person and this forgiveness seems to bring about their physical healing. At other times Jesus his puts out his hand or makes some other sign like putting paste on a blind man's eyes. In most cases we can identify a particular moment when the healing takes place.

However, this does not seem to be so in the case of these ten lepers which are the subject of the Gospel text today. Of course, according to the law these lepers could not come near to Jesus so there was no possibility of him touching them. And for the same reason we can imagine that the words they spoke to him and the words Jesus spoke to them were most probably shouts rather than ordinary speech.

Anyway, all Jesus says to them is to go and show themselves to the priests. This was in order to prove that they had been healed. They go on their way, and only after they have left Jesus do they discover that they have actually been healed. It is very interesting that the word used here for healing is 'cleansed.' It is as if the disease of leprosy is some kind of pollution which has now been purified. To be cleansed implies washing and we immediately realise the connection with Baptism which washes our souls and frees us from sin.

In the Hebrew mind leprosy and sin are very much wrapped up together. We can see then that the separation of the leper from the rest of the people imposed by the law obviously has two purposes. First it separates the mass of the people from possible infection from disease but then it also separates the community from what is perceived to be a sinful person. A subsidiary factor is that this separation from the community of the leper is a real punishment for those who are effectively deemed to be sinners.

Nine of the lepers finding themselves healed simply follow Jesus' instruction and presumably go off to the priests to be officially declared cleansed. Only one of them before going to the priests first returns to Jesus to express his gratitude. This gratitude was obviously very deeply felt; as it says in the text, 'he turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.'

We can only imagine what a relief it was to that poor leper to be freed from his affliction. He could now return to his family and loved ones, he could wear decent clothes and resume his livelihood. It meant a return to normality as well as freedom from poverty and a life of absolute misery. He could now hold his head up high and take his place in society after what was probably months and perhaps years of ostracism.

Luke observes in the text that this man was a Samaritan, which presumably meant that the other nine were Jews. It is interesting to note that the great division between Jews and Samaritans which was observed in the society of that time means nothing to lepers. They are so poor and so isolated that religious differences mean nothing to them; they are glad of each other's company deprived as they are of the companionship of anyone else.

  The fact that the man was a Samaritan is important because it is an indication that Jesus' mission was not only to the Jews but to every person in the world. The fact that the Jews despised the Samaritans and that this man who was grateful was a Samaritan is a way of Jesus rubbing it in that while the Jews may be the Chosen People this does not mean that they are privileged above all other people in the world. There are other examples of this, most notably in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

This passage set before us today underlines the importance of gratitude in our lives. All too frequently we fail to express gratitude to those who help and support us. Young people especially tend to take their parents and brothers and sisters for granted. They don't always realise the great sacrifices that other people make on their behalf.

Raising a family in today's world is no easy task, it inevitably involves huge sacrifices of time and energy and it can often mean deep heartache. When I was chaplain to a women's prison, I met a number of women who had admitted to a crime which was actually committed by their daughter. So that their daughter would not be separated from her own children the mother went to jail on her behalf. This was indeed a very great sacrifice.

But, of course, the one that we all need to be grateful to is God himself. Everything that we have comes from him and most especially the gift of life itself. He is the author of creation and so he is the one from whom all life flows. So, we should certainly not neglect to express our thanks to him for all that he has done on our behalf. If God was not there, constantly bestowing his love and goodness on us, we would not even exist.

From this there is only one conclusion to come to and it is that thanksgiving ought to be a very important part of our prayer life. Of course, there are many components to prayer such as the expression of sorrow, making offerings to God, listening to his Word, asking for the things we need, praising God's greatness and so on. But we must not ever omit thanksgiving from this list. You will note that all these varieties of prayer are to be found in the mass and indeed the long Eucharistic prayer is often regarded as a great prayer of praise and thanks to God.

I think too that when we return to our seats after receiving Holy Communion it is a very special time for us to express our thanksgiving to God for the gift of his Son who we have just received under the forms of bread and wine. And at this quiet moment we can offer him our gratitude for all that he has done in our lives, for all the gifts and joys that he has given us, for the guidance and protection that we have received from him.

Like that leper, before we receive the validation of the world we turn to offer our gratitude to the one to whom we owe absolutely everything.
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