28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
2 Kings 5:14-7
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
2 Timothy 2:8-13
October 9, 2016
Both our first reading today and our gospel tell of people who was thankful for being healed of their leprosy.
In the first reading, it is Naaman who wasn’t even Jewish. He was a great military leader but afflicted by leprosy. Someone tells him about the prophet Elisha who can help him. Elisha tells him to go plunge into the Jordan River. At first, he didn’t want to but others convinced him to. When he made at “act of faith” to do what didn’t make sense to him, then he is healed.
Once he is healed he goes back to Elisha to thank him and he becomes a believer in the God of Israel and no other God. He is thankful and a man of true faith.
In the gospel, it is not just one but ten lepers who ask Jesus for help. The ten lepers cry out to Jesus “Have pity on us.” We need to realize they did so standing at a distance. Leprosy was not a pleasant thing physically but add to it that anyone who had it had to be isolated made it even worse.
What is Jesus’ response? Does he heal them right then? No, He told them to “Go show yourselves to the priests.” When a leper was healed they were to go to a priest so the priest could see them and declare them clean. But they haven’t been healed yet.
Yet, they do as Jesus said. In doing so, they make an act of faith and then they are healed. However, only one returns to give thanks.
How often do we ask God for help?
Why are we even willing to ask God? I think we are willing to ask God because hearing the many stories in the Bible about God healing people gives us hope that God will provide for us too. As we sang in our response verse, “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.” This revelation comes through the stories in scripture.
I suspect when we feel a need we all remember to ask God for help. The need helps us to remember. However, I also suspect that we aren’t so good about thanking God when we receive help.
When we are truly thankful for what God has done for others before us and what he has done for us, then we can live with an “attitude of gratitude.” This is turn fills us with hope but not just an ordinary hope.
In ordinary hope, we expect there are better things to come but in the hope that goes with faith, we know that God is with us even when things are difficult. The hope of faith gives us the strength to get through the tough moments rather than just trying to pray them away.
The hope of faith transforms the way we live.
We see this in Paul. As Saul, he had been a zealous Jew who believed that Jesus was a false messiah and thus heavily persecuted the Christians. Jesus had to directly intervene with Paul to get him to see the “light” and become Christian. Then, as Paul, he was a zealous promoter of the Christian faith.
What does Paul’s work as an apostle get him? As he writes to Timothy he is in prison. He could have lamented being in prison. He could have pray to get out of prison. He doesn’t. He just trusts that God will help him in whatever situation comes before him.
Paul is thankful for what God has already done for him. When I say thankful, not just for some healing or any one time miracle. Paul is thankful because he realizes that God could have condemned him to Hell for his persecution of the Christians. Instead Jesus reached out to him with forgiveness that Paul realizes he didn’t deserve. What is Paul thankful for? His salvation.
We are here to celebrate Mass. That is “what” we are here to do but why do we come?
We might come because life isn’t going so well and we want God to help us. In the first part of Mass, we hear God’s Word from the Bible and the stories of how God has taken care of his people can help us find hope in our own needs. Thus, we are strengthened in the Word of God. Are we thankful for this?
Then we celebrate the Eucharist. We must remember that the word “Eucharist” means thanksgiving.
Why should we be thankful for the Eucharist? The most obvious is because of what we receive in the Eucharist. It is not just bread and wine. It is the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is Jesus giving himself to us to strengthen us. This alone is reason to be thankful.
However, this is not all the Eucharist represents for us. The words of consecration “this is my Body…this is my blood” come from Jesus’ own words at the Last Supper. When He said those words he spoke of his Body being given up for us, his Blood being shed for us. This establishes a direct connection between the Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Cross.
This is why whenever we celebrate the Eucharist, we have a Crucifix present. For us, it is right next to my chair. Seeing the Crucifix is to give us hope. It reminds of the sacrifice we celebrate.
Here we must appreciate it is a Crucifix, not just a Cross. The Cross is the instrument of our salvation but when we see Jesus on it, we see Jesus himself giving his life for us.
Thus when we celebrate the Eucharist, we have much to be thankful for. We are thankful for what we receive in the Body and Blood of Jesus. We are thankful of Jesus giving his life on the Cross for us. We are filled with hope. We can be transformed by the hope that comes from the Eucharist to be filled with an “attitude of gratitude.” We are filled with hope and transformed to look at the world differently as we go out in faith and hope to live our lives trusting in Jesus.