|And There Was One|
Homily for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass
Audio for homily
These nine lepers have suffered a bad reputation for some 2,000 years!
So let’s, for a moment, give them the benefit of the doubt...
After all, when Jesus asks, “Where are the other nine?”
we have no reason to think they weren’t at the temple,
showing themselves to the priests,
doing exactly what Jesus had told them to do.
We also have no reason to doubt that they were ecstatically grateful
for what Jesus had done for them.
And isn't it possible that after visiting the temple
and going home to tell their families their good news
that THEN they came back to thank Jesus?
But for his own purposes here,
Jesus clearly draws our attention to this one leper, the Samaritan.
Why is this so?
There’s a “coded message” in the gospel text today:
the mention that this one grateful leper was -- a Samaritan.
You see, the Samaritans were despised by the Jewish people
at least in part because the Samaritans
rejected the temple in Jerusalem
and worshiped in their own place on Mount Gerizim.
So here is the gospel’s coded message:
“Look! Even a Samaritan who can’t find his way to the right temple,
even a Samaritan knows enough to go back
and give thanks for his cure."
(And what if the Samaritan leper came back to Jesus
simply because he refused to recognize the authority of the priests
in the temple at Jerusalem?)
In the first lesson today another geographic dynamic plays out.
Naaman is so convinced that the God of Israel is the only God
that he asks to bring home to Syria, two mule loads of Israeli soil
so that even there he might worship on Israel's holy ground.
Naaman knows enough to be grateful for the cure of his leprosy
and he knows where to go to give thanks.
Perhaps we don’t understand the gratitude of Naaman and the 10th leper
because we don’t recognize what we have to be grateful for.
Our culture teaches us to never be satisfied with what we have,
leaving many of us feeling, a good deal of the time
- incomplete and unfulfilled.
If it seems we never have exactly what we desire
or never have enough of what we want,
then we will always be short, just shy,
of the appreciation that inspires gratitude.
Then, too, ours is what one writer has called a “culture of complaint.”
“When complaint becomes our ordinary vehicle of commentary
and when public discourse is generally cast in the negative
it becomes more and more difficult to reach the threshold of gratitude.”
Perhaps what we need then, as a balance, is to:
cultivate a sensibility of gratitude,
examining our lives for signs of God’s grace
and striving to be as expressive about our blessings
as we are about our problems.
And that takes work: examining one’s life for signs of God’s grace.
• Consider how easy it is
(when our hearts are trained on wanting more things, more stuff)
how easy it is to miss the moments of grace
that come our way from God.
• How easy it is for us to overlook all we have
when our focus is on what we don't have yet.
• How easy it is for us to miss many of God’s gifts and blessings
- when we’ve decided that God has forgotten or abandoned us.
“A sensibility of gratitude...”
Perhaps you’ve heard that expressed as an “attitude of gratitude.”
Naaman and the tenth leper both had an attitude of gratitude.
How about us - we who live in a culture of complaint?
Do we examine our lives for signs of God’s grace?
Do we count our blessings before complaining about our burdens?
Do we know enough to thank the Lord for what we have
or do we tend to credit our own efforts and ingenuity
for the good things that are ours?
Well, at least today, at this hour,
we’ve been smart enough to know where to go
to give God our thanks.
We’ve come to this table to praise God
through, with and in Christ who is, himself - the only true temple!
Not the temple in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerizim,
but rather the temple of Christ’s body
which we celebrate and receive here in the Eucharist
at the Lord’s temple table.
Pray with me that the Eucharist will nourish in us
“an attitude of gratitude”
drawing us to discern God’s grace in our own skin
and giving us the faith and courage
to share the story of our gratitude with one another.
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