14 October 2007, XXVIII Sunday of the Year

2Kings 5, 14-17; 2 Tim 2, 8-13; Luke 17, 11-19

“Your faith has made you well”

“Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Last week’s readings spoke of living faith, a faith that shines in works. Today’s readings speak of healing faith, a faith that embraces gratitude.

Today’s First Reading from the Second Book of Kings tells us of the healing of Naaman, a foreigner in the land of Israel. Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master. Because of him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Having learnt that he could receive healing through the prophet he comes to Israel with the introduction from the king. The king of Israel is upset. But Elisha the prophet takes the responsibility of healing Naaman. True, Naaman wanted a miracle with ease; but the prophet asks him to wash in the river Jordan seven times. Even though it makes Naaman angry, ultimately he yields and he is healed. He proclaims his faith before all the people and promises to worship the God of Israel. The lesson we learn is that we cannot dictate terms to God. He has his own way of answering our prayers. Secondly we cannot stand on ceremonies before Him. Finally all our works of charity need to be gratuitous and not for any gain.

In our Gospel Reading we heard Jesus healing the ten lepers. We must consider the situation of the lepers at the time of Jesus. Those who have seen the movie Ben-Hur know how the lepers were treated those days. Once a person was declared a leper, he had to stay outside the city walls and often in isolation. He could not come into contact with any person of the community or city. Often food was left for them at a distance by the family members. They could not come anywhere close to people and if they saw anyone fifty feet away, they had to shout “leper, leper” and if anyone by chance touched a leper he or she were defiled for seven days and they could not offer sacrifice. In other words, a leper was said to be a person dead to the community. That is why when Jesus touches a leper and heals the person; he does something forbidden by the law.

Something strange is noticed in the ten lepers who come to Jesus for healing. Nine of them were Jews and one was a Samaritan. Generally the Jews and Samaritans never mingled with each other. But common sickness and common ailment makes them strange companions. Jesus does make a mention to say, even though indirectly, a foreigner has come back to thank. As a general rule, when a Jewish leper was healed, he had to go to the local priest to confirm that he was now clean and permitted to mix among the general public. For the Samaritan, more was demanded. Most likely, he had to go to his own priest near Mount Gerizim. This demand of Jesus required a greater act of obedience because of the traveling involved. While the demand was greater upon the Samaritan, he was the only one to show gratitude for the gift of healing that he received.

Jesus seems to be visibly hurt at this juncture. During his life time he never looked for gratitude. When they wanted to make him a king he runs away. When he heals a person he silences them and tells them to tell no one. Now suddenly he asks where the other nine are. Did Jesus really look for gratitude? Many feel, he did not ask for gratitude. But he wanted in each of us a sense of gratitude at the receiving of a gift. As human persons we often forget that. That is what he taught his disciples in the prayer, to be humble and grateful.

There are several lessons for us to learn. First, it tells us about gratitude. As human persons we must be thankful to the one who has done us something and express it. This needs humility and sincerity and always builds up the relationships. The Samaritan leper returned to thank God and Jesus for the healing he received. Secondly, it gives us a sense of community living and sharing. The lepers lived together and it may have been out of sheer necessity. But we are all social animals and we cannot afford to live in isolation. The parable indirectly tells us that. Thirdly, it tells us about prayer. The leper who turned back to thank Jesus can serve us as a model in prayer. Even when praying seems difficult, or when right words elude us, we can offer a simple prayer of thanks. Even on the worst of days a few moments of reflection will reveal to us examples of God’s healing presence in our life. There is always something for which to be thankful, even if it is only the grace of having made it through another day. Finally, today’s readings provide us with an opportunity to reflect upon our own disposition during prayer. Do we beg God for a special favour but forget to show gratitude by giving thanks when we receive it?

Let us therefore, reflect upon the richness of the Word of God that we have heard today. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to remind us always to be most grateful to the Lord Jesus for His love, His grace, His mercy and His salvation. Then we will hear the Words of Jesus in our hearts, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Eugene

Anecdote on Gratitude: At the age of seven, a young boy and his family were forced out of their home, and the boy was forced to go to work. When the boy was nine, his mother passed away. He had a job as a store clerk, but lost it when he was twenty. The young man wanted to go to law school, but had no education. He went into debt when he was twenty-three, to become a partner in a small store. It was only three years later that his business partner died, and left him with a debt that took years for him to repay.

He dated a girl for four years and, at the age of twenty-eight, decided to ask her to marry him. She turned him down. Thirty-seven years into his life, he was elected to Congress… on his THIRD try. He then failed to be re-elected. This man’s son died when he was only four years old. At age forty-five, he ran for the Senate…and failed to be elected. He persisted at politics and ran for the vice-presidency at age forty-seven, and again lost. Finally, at the age of fifty-one, this man was elected President of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln.

And then, President Lincoln did a very unusual thing. In the midst of the darkest day in American history, in the midst of the Civil War which claimed more American lives than any other war, in the midst of great trial and tragedy, President Lincoln issued the following proclamation: “It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gifts of God] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Abraham Lincoln had a grateful heart. He knew, that even in the midst of great tribulation and hardship, there was much to be thankful for. And he took the time to express his gratitude to God, and invited the American people to join him in giving thanks to the Holy One.

(If you have benefited from these reflections, kindly introduce this blog to your friends) 

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