HOW GRATEFUL ARE WE?
HOMILY FOR TWENTY-EIGHT SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C. Readings: 2Kings 5:14-17;Psalm 98; 2Timothy 2:8-13 and Luke 17:11-19.
Some of us often recount our pains, challenges, difficulties, disappointments, setbacks and often forget the goods we have received from God. With today’s liturgy, we recall the outbreak of Ebola disease in Nigeria sometime in July 2014 and the outbreak of Corona virus, which brought panic, fear and death over us. We recall how we cooperated and still cooperating on our fight against this deadly disease. These transmitted disease and virus helps us understand better leprosy and the acts of gratitude that reflects in today’s readings.
The first reading presents to us the story of Naaman the leper who expressed a profound gratitude to God after receiving healing through the prophet Elisha. Leprosy is a dreadly disease that renders all Naaman’s achievements of military powers as commander of Syria and positive qualities moot. This disease renders him ineffective. In Biblical terms, leprosy refers to any number of skin diseases, some of which were quite serious and others were less serious. The detailed laws given to us in Lev 13-14 gives us clear idea how seriously people took this disease. Jewish law says that a leper shall “Wear torn cloths, and the hair of his head shall hand loose. He shall cover his upper lips, and shall cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ …He shall dwell alone. Outside of the camp shall be his dwelling” (Lev 1345-46) and who reinstate a leper to the society is the priest. That is why Christ will request that the lepers in today’s gospel go show themselves to the priest.
In the antecedent verse of the first reading, Naaman was asked by Elisha to immerse himself seven times in the Jordan, signifying total obedience to the divine word, which brought him healing. With this, he returned to Elisha with a display of gratitude. When he first came to Elisha’s house, he came expecting a quick healing and solicitous treatment. Now he has been humbled, and he returned to Elisha to express his gratitude. In an extraordinary affirmation of faith from a man who has been accustomed in serving many gods, he said, “Now, I know there is no God in all the earth except in Israel” (2Kg 5:15) and he teaches us how to show appreciation to those who have been good to us.
The reading teaches us that God does not come to our aid or help because of what he will receive in return from us. In view of Naaman’s wealth, God is the giver of all things and so, does not condemn material offerings to the Church in appreciation for his goodness. The Church remains the visible sign of Christ on earth, and our material offerings are used in building up his visible body, that is, the Church. Like Naaman who said after his healing, “Now, please, accept a present from your servant” (v.16). Hence, we are called to continue in this act of gratitude and generosity to the Church and her priests.
Interestingly, Naaman was a foreigner who returned to Elisha to appreciate him and in a similar way, in a similar way, the gospel presents the admiration of Christ on the Samaritan who has been made clean from his leprosy, “Turned back, praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Christ and thanked him” (Lk 17:17). Like Naaman, Christ recognized him as a foreigner when he asked a rhetorical question, “Where not all ten made clean? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner” (v.18). The natural inclination of these lepers that have suffered isolation and rejection from the society could be to seek to be readmitted to their villages, homes, workplaces and family circles. Just like we experienced lockdown, sit at home during the pandemic and much craving for social lifestyle, we could imagine the overwhelming desire of these lepers to return to a normal lifestyle. It is remarkable that one of them resisted the urge to go home, rather turned back to thank Jesus.
When was the last time we expressed such act of gratitude to God? Some find it difficult to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and say ‘thank you Lord.’ It is the season of harvest but on a sad note, some of us do not see reasons why we should express this form of appreciation or gratitude to God. Some of us keep rationalizing if it is worth saying thank you or to give back to God while some of us give as if we are playing lottery, with the mindset that God must do something special for us before we can give him back. We are urged this day by the action of this Samaritan and Naaman that our acts of thanksgiving should come from our hearts.
In view of this, we must approach the thanksgiving sacrifice in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist daily. We are urged not to stand from a distance nor sit like lepers because of sins we are not ready to let go of. Let us approach Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and then the Holy Eucharist. By doing so, we express and live a life of thanksgiving. May God accept our offerings and thanksgiving sacrifice through Christ our Lord, Amen!
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ