Sunday, October 10, 2010

The gift and the Giver - Luke 17:11-19

Image source: LDS
Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

Audio for today's homily


Over the 63 years of my life I’ve received many gifts.
I haven't kept them all.
Some were broken and thrown away, some were lost in moving,
some were given away to others
and some made their way to a parish Christmas fair or yard sale.

We treasure some gifts more than others
because of how beautiful or useful they are.
And some gifts are special, not so much in themselves,
but for how they connect us to the ones who gave them to us.

Sometimes we rejoice in the gift itself.
And sometimes we rejoice much more
in our relationship with the one who gave us the gift.

A gift is a token, a sign of something greater:
a sign of the love of the Giver from whom the gift has come.

Consider the 10 lepers.
What do you suppose the missing 9 were doing
when the grateful 1 returned to thank Jesus?

• My guess is they were off somewhere jumping up and down
with new-found strength in their healed limbs,
tearing off their clothes to inspect their skin,
freshly cured of leprosy’s sores.

• I’ll bet they were running through the very streets
where, until now, they’d been forbidden, as lepers, to walk.

• Surely they were making for home and their old neighborhoods,
bursting to tell their families and friends what had happened,
rejoicing, heart and soul and with every inch of their bodies,
in the great gift they had just received.

So the 9 were doing just what you and I might do
while that 1 leper, just as happy and just as excited as the others,
returned to Jesus, praising God along the way,
until he stood right before Jesus and fell to his knees,
rejoicing not only in the gift he’d received,
but in the Giver as well.

The gift he received led him back to the Giver...

Just what we learned growing up, right?
How many times did we hear, upon receiving a gift,
“And what do you say?”
Thank you!

What we try to teach our children
(and what we often forget ourselves)
is that the generous love of the giver is more important,
is of greater value, than the gift we receive.

Jesus’ concern here is not that the 9 lepers "forgot their manners"
and didn’t say “thank you.”
Jesus cured their leprosy as a sign, a token,
of the greater gift he offers:
a redeeming relationship with him.

Jesus doesn’t “take back” the cure of the 9 because they run off,
but he makes clear to the 1 leper who returned
that he’s saved by his faith, by his recognizing
that there is in Christ’s gift something greater than the cure itself -
the offer of a redeeming relationship with the Giver.

Now, consider the 33 workers trapped, a half mile below the ground,
in that mine in Chile, trapped now for 65 days.

The report is promising.
It looks like they will be…
How will I put this?
It looks like they will be… saved!

Those miners and their families have been praying, just like the lepers:
“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

I wonder: when, please God, they are all saved,
I wonder if and how such a gift might change them…

Certainly they’ll rejoice in the gift of being rescued.

Certainly they’ll rejoice with their families, friends.

I wonder: how might this experience, this gift,
change their relationship with the Lord?

Nicholas Regadas, the 9-year-old grandson of one of the trapped miners,
told a reporter:
“I want my grandfather back as soon as possible
because I want him to know how long I’ve been waiting to hug him.”

If you want to understand why Jesus looked for the other 9 lepers,
listen to Nicholas.

Jesus wanted the 9 to return so he might tell them
how long he’d been waiting to hug them,
to embrace them with his redeeming mercy,
to enfold them with his peace:
how he'd been waiting to wrap them in his saving arms…

Jesus may not have offered you and me dramatic cures or rescues,
but his gifts to us have been as many as they have been different
and like Nicholas, he waits for us to return to him
that he might give us his greatest gift,
the embrace of his saving love.

A gift is a token, a sign of something greater:
a sign of the love of the Giver from whom the gift has come.

There’s a gift for us at this table
but the gift of the altar is not just a token.

In the Eucharist, in the Bread and Cup of the Lord’s Supper,
the Gift is the Giver and the Giver is the Gift.

In this sacrament the Lord waits to tell us
how long he’s been waiting
to hold us in his saving love.


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5 comments:

Faith said...

But Father, look at it this way. Jesus told them ALL to go show themselves to the priests (because the priests determine whether or not they were lepers) and they did except one disobedient one. Why? That disobedient one wasn't of their religion, and didn't obey their laws of having the priest determine whether or not he was a leper. I like to think that once they were pronounced as "clean," they looked for Jesus to thank Him.

NRIGirl said...

Glad to visit your blog and read the wonderful post. I mainly liked the last part where you remind us that communion is a gift and the giver in one. Thank you!

Would you care to stop by for some Coffee with Jesus?!

In His love,
NRIGirl

Austin Fleming said...

But Faith, look at it this way - the way Luke tells the story. Anyone can, of course, imagine "what happened next?" (Consider all the "what might have happened next" possibilities at the end of the story of the prodigal son!) But the preacher usually needs to deal with what the text gives him. If the other 9 returned, why would that not be included in the story. And if they did return, then what would be the point of the story - and the point of Jesus' question. Seems to me the whole story leads to the one foreigner recognizing the new law in Christ.

Faith said...

The point of the story is gratitude. But the point of the Jesus' question leads me to your view.
Why do you think Jesus didn't heal them immediately? Was he playing with them, just to see who would return and say "Thank you?"

Austin Fleming said...

Miracles need to be authenticated by the priests, thus Jesus sends them there for that purpose.

Why did the story unfold as it did? I cannot say - I only know how it unfolded and must deal with it on its own terms.

But... I don't think Jesus was playing a mind game (or any other kind) with the lepers. Keep in mind that miracles are signs of the kingdom already present to us in Christ.