Sunday, October 9, 2016

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: God is Merciful, Be Thankful

Today's readings remind us to always be faithful and thankful to God.

In the first reading, we read of Naaman who was a leper.  Elisha told Naaman to go into the Jordan river and plunge himself seven times.  As you may know, the number seven means perfection or completion.  It is the number connected to God (Deuteronomy 5:12, Joshua 6:3-4, Exodus 25:37).  By stating that Naaman was plunging himself seven times in the Jordan, this meant that he became good with God.  His flesh became like that of a little child. When we return to God, we are like children running back to our parent(s) after wandering away too far. The statement that Naaman's flesh became like that of a child should remind us of what Jesus say about being like a child (Matthew 18:3).  It is only when we reach this humility that we see God and our leprosy (sin) is removed. Naaman realized that the real God was in Israel.  This does not mean that God is stuck in a nation. No one can contain God (1 Kings 8:27). What this means is that the God of Israel is the real God, not the many idols made of stone and wood that were around during the time. God has revealed Himself to all of the world.

We have seen His saving power, as the Responsorial Psalm tells us.  This is why we sing to God a new song and praise Him for He has made known His salvation to each of us.  We must remain faithful and share this news of salvation to all of the world even if we suffer as St. Paul tells us in the second reading (Matthew 28:19).  Jesus Christ rose from the dead (Luke 24). This was not metaphorical nor a legend. He really did rise. We do not need to see a video of it to believe this.  At the time, many people claimed to be the messiah and did not last long (Matthew 24:24).  People did not believe them and abandoned these preachers.  The main reasons as to why this happened is because 1) they did not fulfill the prophesies and 2) they did not perform the works of God. Jesus did fulfill the prophecies and performed many miracles (Matthew 5:17, John 19:30, John 20:30). However, despite performing them, some still did not believe. The resurrection changed this for many. The early Catholic Church would not have grown the way it did if the resurrection did not happen. People would not dedicate their lives to Christianity if it was based on tall tales and legend. They would not face persecution, torture and death if who they were suffering for was not the real thing, so to speak.  This is why St. Paul was open to suffering and imprisonment.  He was chained, but the Gospel was not.  The Gospel can never be chained. In season or out of season, the Word will thrive even after heaven and earth pass (Matthew 24:35). We as Catholics must have this zeal and be open to suffering for the sake of the Gospel.  Enemies of the Church may martyr us, but the Gospel will not die with the death of even a million of us.  The Gospel will live on forever.  We may die, but if we die with Him, we will live and reign with Him (John 11:26).  However, if we deny Him, He will deny us (Matthew 10:33).  God is always faithful. He is good to us and we must reciprocate this. We must not become ingrates like those nine lepers we will read about in today's Gospel.

In today's Gospel, we are told that ten lepers met up with Jesus and shouted, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"  Jesus did not turn them away.  Instead, He tells them to go show themselves to the Jewish priests. He says this because He had mercy on them and cured them.  Here we see how merciful God is that a mere shouting of "Have pity on us" is suffice to get God to show mercy.  This is why we must pray for those who are not in our faith or do not believe, especially at the end of their lives.  We hope that non-Catholics, atheists and agnostics use their last seconds of life to say like the lepers, "Have pity on us!" The Gospel reminds us that we must be thankful to God and not hustle Him, so to speak.  Out of the ten lepers, only one returned to Jesus to thank Him.  The others disappeared after their healing.  St. Athanasius tells us, "You recall that he loved the one who was thankful, but he was angry with the ungrateful ones, because they did not acknowledge their Deliverer. They thought more highly of their cure from leprosy than of him who had healed them.… Actually, this one was given much more than the rest. Besides being healed of his leprosy, he was told by the Lord, 'Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.' You see, those who give thanks and those who glorify have the same kind of feelings. They bless their helper for the benefits they have received. That is why Paul urged everybody to 'glorify God with your body.' Isaiah also commanded, 'Give glory to God. (“Festal Letter 6”, quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 268.)'"  Ironically, this leper was a Samaritan who was part of a sect that lived the Jewish life in a lax or liberal way and were despised by those who were more conservative. This is why we must not judge others who may worship differently or liberally (John 8:7).

In many cases, these people are holier than those who adhere to liturgical rules and traditionalism as if their life depended on it. The alleged "modernist" may be holier than the staunch "traditionalist."  We must not judge one another (Matthew 7:1-3).  We must be humble like that one leper who returned to Christ to give thanks.  He realized that Christ not only healed Him, but forgave Him and showed him how much he was loved.  St. Bede tells us, "The one leper fell upon his face, because he blushed with shame when he remembered the evils he had committed. And he was commanded to rise and walk, because he who, knowing his own weakness and lying lowly on the ground, was led by the divine word to accomplish mighty deeds. Faith made him whole, and so he hurried himself back to give thanks. But unbelief destroys those who have neglected to give glory to God for mercies received. Therefore we ought to increase our faith by humility, as exemplified here (Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Luke, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 3 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1843), 587-588.)."  God is good to us.  Even in times of trial and suffering, we must try our best to realize that this suffering is for a greater good (Acts 17:11). God is not some cosmic masochist getting a laugh of each soul's stumble and pain.  He is a loving father who sometimes uses tough love, so to speak. Therefore, we must give thanks to God for both the good and the bad; I dare to say, for the bad more.  I state this because it is the bad things in life that either break or make our faith. If one can go through "hell," so to speak, and not come out a bitter atheist, this is testament to a great faith and love for God which will be rewarded. St. Josemaría Escrivá reminds us, "Get used to lifting your heart to God, in acts of thanksgiving, many times a day. Because he gives you this and that. Because you have been despised. Because you haven’t what you need or because you have. Because he made his Mother so beautiful, his Mother who is also your Mother. Because he created the sun and the moon and this animal and that plant. Because he made that man eloquent and you he left tongue-tied.Thank him for everything, because everything is good (Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 268.)."  Let us praise God always and remain faithful.  Let us thank God for all things in life and not treat Him as if He was our personal genie in a bottle granting us our desires.  He is our loving and merciful father.  May Jesus Christ be praised!



Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100916.cfm

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