Homily (Reflection) for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year (C) (13th October, 2019) on the Gospel2Kg 5:14-17;
Ps 97:1-4. (R. cf. v. 2);
Topic: Remember THANK YOU.
During the time of Jesus just like in other parts of the world, the state of lepers in Israel was very bad. Medicine was yet to be ready to combat the spread of infectious diseases like leprosy. So to avoid their spread, their victims were normally quarantined. In Israel, lepers were seen as unclean and must be avoided, cf. Lev 13:3; 5:3. According to the book of Leviticus, there must be demarcation between the clean and the unclean, cf. Lev 10:10. Even nonhumans were not spared, cf. Lev 14:34-47. Hence in the gospel pericope, we read: “...ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they cried out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’”
The work of priests was far beyond what it is today. It was the priest who “shall examine the diseased spot on the skin of his body; and if the hair in the diseased spot has turned white and the disease appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a leprous disease; when the priest has examined him he shall pronounce him unclean” (Lev 13:3). Lepers remain in the state of uncleanness as long as the disease lasts and as a result “shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp” (Lev 13:46).
Just as the priest declared one unclean on account of leprosy, if a leper is cured by any means, it was also a priestly duty to declare him or her clean and also to perform ritual cleansing and atonement for the victim, cf. Lev 14:1-20. With this in mind, we can understand why Jesus said to the ten lepers unlike when he performed other miracles: “Go and show yourselves to the priests”.
This picture of the state of lepers in Israel at the time of Jesus shows the magnitude of what Jesus did for the ten lepers. We can also better imagine how he felt that made Him queried: “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Surely, many if not all of us will instantly condemn those nine ungrateful men, many of whom must have been Jesus’ kinsmen (Jews).
Just as the state of lepers in Israel was very bad, today there are many conditions that are really bad. Some differ from culture to culture. Many of us were in such pitiable states. And some have been shielded from them. How do we appreciate these? Often our actions do not differ from what the woman whose son was saved by an old sailor in Winston Churchill’s story did. When the little boy fell off a pier into deep ocean water, an older sailor headless of the great danger dove into the stormy water, struggled with the boy, and finally brought him to safety. Days later the mother of the boy came in his company to the sailor. Surely many will conclude that they were there to at least say some kind words to the sailor but that was far from what happened. The woman came and queried the old sailor about his son’s hat.
Today’s gospel calls for serious examination on how often we have been grateful to God, to others especially those who have been good to us, and also to ourselves. Some do rarely appreciate what they do. There is need to be grateful for what God is doing through you. Again, we should also be grateful for what God has done for us through the instrumentality of our fellow men and women. There is also need for us to always appreciate God who is the author of all that we have and are (Acts 17:28). The Psalmist rightly said: “Know that the LORD is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps 100:3). Do we appreciate these facts? Most often what we always have in mind is what we think that God has not done, what others have not done, as well as what we have not done.
There is a story of one who was taken to heaven by an angel. Among the things he was shown were different departments. Two stood out of the rest in terms of patronage – the most active and the least active. On enquiring he was told that the busiest department is the one that receives prayers/petitions, presents them to God and also send God’s response/s down to us like life, children, good health, husband, wife, wealth, and so on. Whereas the least busy is the department charged with receiving gratitude from people to whom God’s responses have been sent to (me and you). Some even clash with the Holy Spirit. Did I hear you ask how? Okay! When we grumble that God has not answered our prayer what really happened? Saint Paul offered this, “...the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). Do you know what is most important to you? I can hear you say YES even without thinking but you are wrong.
Dear one in the Lord, God is still asking of the people he has blessed with all kinds of gifts. Do not deny God what belongs to Him: “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God” (Rev 19:1). God expects our thanks for all He had done and is still doing for us. The book of Revelation reads, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Rev 7:12; cf. Ps 65:1).
Bible Reading: Lev 13; Lev 14; Ps 103; Eph 2:1-10.
Thought for today: Are you the Samaritan or one of the ungrateful nine who went away?
Let us pray: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits” (Ps 103:1-2).
May we always be conscious of the fact that everything we are and have come from God and be grateful to Him as we should and to those through whom they were made possible – Amen.
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