Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
From a distance the 10 lepers called out to Jesus, for they saw in Him healing and integrity. They recognized in Him the voice of hope as in the voice of a shepherd. They called from a distance because the Jews have imposed on the lepers a prohibition not to come close to people who they say were well. They obeyed His command to show themselves to the priests, and because of their faith and obedience, by the healing power of God, they were cured. But that distance was not just a matter of meters or feet; it was created by the Jews to separate people from others. With God there is no distance; there is no measurement; only man can create a distance from God by walking away from His call and His love.
Naaman though wanted healing the easy way, and was angry with Elisha for sending him to bathe in the Jordan. In the end he recognized this voice of God through his companion (cf 2Kgs 5:1-17). By obeying, he was healed. Both Naaman and the Samaritan immediately returned to Elisha and to Jesus, respectively, to give thanks; and no longer from a distance, but close to God’s heart, they showed their gratitude by offering praise and sacrifice, proclaiming the glory of God, for God has come down to His people.
In His desire to save mankind from eternal damnation, God chose Mary to be the Mother of His Son, and through Her obedience, God became man and dwelt among us. Thus, mankind is able to approach the Father through Jesus, who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). So also our obedience to the will of God makes us holy, at peace with Him and His people, and worthy children of the Father. This is the faith expressed by Naaman and the 10 lepers, and it transformed their lives with the encounter with Elisha and with Jesus, respectively, into followers of God’s commands. Pope Francis would say in his encyclical Lumen Fidei: “Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call” (#13, Rome, June 29, 2013). In every moment in life, every miracle of life, healing comes to us, and God calls us to that transformation to be obedient to His will and gratefully praise and thank Him for all graces we receive.
Certainly, we all have personal difficulties and weaknesses. We carry many wounds that society has imposed on us. So, we also call: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us” (Lk 17:13). We ask Jesus to heal the world of the wounds of ingratitude, the wounds of sin, division and indifference, the wounds of wars and calamities, the wounds of drug addiction and sexual abuse, the wounds of the evils of abortion, ethnic cleansing and discrimination, the wounds of poverty and economic crisis, the wounds of sickness and accidents, the wounds of abuse of authority and institutionalized greed, the wounds of capitalism, communism and terrorism, the wounds of fraud and thievery, and many others.
Certainly, God must feel the hurt by our ingratitude, selfishness and indifference, and by the many oppressive acts society brings upon its children. But God loves us. He helps us and heals us, and guides us back to Himself. Every small act of gratitude is a voice of hope and peace, and can make a difference in the life of others. We thank God for the many blessings we have received: for life and for our families, for being able to come to Church and go to work, for safety from calamities and wars. We can even thank him for our leaking roof, for we know that we have roof over our heads, while others don’t. We thank him for the dishes we wash, for we know that we had food to eat, while others don’t. We thank Him for being stuck in traffic jam, for we know we are driving or riding cars, while others walk under the heat of the sun or heavy rain. We thank Him for lively and noisy children in our homes, for others who greatly desire to have children are not able to bear and rear children. We thank Him for people who rally against the horrors of abortion, for we know that our parents patiently and lovingly brought us into this world. We thank Him for everything, for what we do not have and for what we do not know. We trust in Him who knows all things.
Gratitude is our act of recognition that by merit or achievement we do not really deserve anything. We receive graces because God wants us to be instruments of His love and mercy, and He wants us to be with Him always. This kind of gratitude is redemptive, and brings healing, peace and joy. Jesus praised and thanked His Father and proclaimed: “for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike…. Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest…. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:25-30).
The Eucharist is our greatest act of thanksgiving. It is the voice of God that calls us to hope and peace. So, in grateful trust, let us learn from St. Paul: “If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him” (2 Tm 2:11-12). Let the persistent call of God to holiness take effect in our hearts today.