28 Sunday of the Year C
2 Kgs 5:14-17; 2 Tm 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
To send someone a greeting card is a way of telling him/her that he/she has not been forgotten. There are all kinds of card for different occasions: birthday card, mother day, father day cards, and cards for wedding anniversary, first communion, confirmation, and thanksgiving and so on. The sale and purchase of greeting cards today is a big business. To say a word of thanks or to send a thank you card is a way of expressing our appreciation and gratitude. To receive those kinds of card is a joyful experience.
The leper at the time of Jesus was forced to live in isolation away from the healthy since the disease was considered contagious and incurable. The Book of Leviticus tells us: He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp (Lv 13:46). If the leper met a healthy person on the road, he was required to cry out that he was unclean (Lv 13:45) as a warning. Besides, the leper was not permitted to enter a public place of worship because leprosy was considered ritually unclean.
The second book of Kings tells us when Namaan, a Syrian army commander was healed of leprosy by the prophet Elisha, his first response was to offer his gift to the man of God. When the prophet dared not accept any gift, Namaan asked permission to take some soil of the place where he was healed to remind him of his gratitude towards the God of Israel. He also promised he would no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god, except to the Lord (2 Kgs 5:17).
When the ten lepers implored Jesus to have mercy on them, Jesus told them: Go show yourselves to the priests (Lk 17:14). What does it mean to go show themselves to the priests? According to the book of Leviticus, when the leper was healed, he must go to present himself to the priest and to be certified that he was healed. Thus to go show themselves to the priests implied Jesus would be going to heal them and they would be going to be healed. On their way to go, they were cleansed. Only one of them, the Samaritan, returned to give thanks to Jesus.
When the Samaritan returned to give thanks to Jesus, he received another gift: the forgiveness of sin. He was healed not only physically, but also spiritually. When we are grateful to somebody for something received, we prepare ourselves to receive more things in the future. In a similar way, when we are grateful to God for gifts received, we prepare ourselves to receive more gifts in the future.
To be grateful to somebody for something received means we want to remember the person for that thing. To be grateful is a sign of humility and dependence, wanting to accept a favor from the other. To live in a society of which culture prompts one to be aware of saying thanks and evaluating a word of thanks, yet when a word of thanks is not heard, one feels something is missing. To be grateful to somebody without expressing it is something missed. Yet a word of thanks might be a lip service or done according to social customs, if it is not from an inner sense of gratitude. To be grateful to somebody is a sign of humility and dependence. For us Christians, when we are grateful to God for everything, we want to remember him, to be dependent on him for everything he has given to us in our daily lives.
On the contrary, when we are ungrateful, we close the door of our heart, not wanting to have any contact with the one who has done us a favor, thus preventing more possible gifts to come in the future. When we are not grateful, we tend to forget about the person who has done us a favor. Perhaps the nine lepers healed did not return to thank Jesus because they thought it was Jesus’ duty to heal them because they were God’s chosen people.
To think about those losses bodily and mentally which the lepers had to suffer, and then healed free of charge, yet not returning to give thanks, is unthinkable and reproachable. Perhaps there were times when we might have thought and acted as the nine lepers healed without returning to give thanks to God. When we consider those things, people do for us as their duty; we tend to take their service for granted.
For us Christians, each day of our lives should be our offering of gratitude to God for all the gifts and blessings he has given to us. In order for our thanksgiving not to be lip service, we should put it into practice by sharing our gifts and blessings with the needy. The best way to give thanks to God is to offer the sacrifice of the mass of thanksgiving. The mass in Geek language is called Eucharistos, meaning to give thanks. Thus to offer the mass or the Eucharist means to give thanks. For us Catholics, to come to church to offer the sacrifice of the mass is the best way to give thanks to God. Thus to give thanks to God, without offering the mass of thanksgiving is we miss something important in our act of thanksgiving.
Prayer for remembering God’s gifts:
Oh God, provider of all things
We are sorry for the times we have been ungrateful,
for the times we have been jealous
when others did better than we did.
Forgive me for the times I complained against you.
Grant that I may remember that
to live in a spirit of gratitude daily, hourly, minutely, and secondly
must be a reminder for my life.
We bless you, we praise you, and we worship you,
we thank you and we glorify your name. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong