Sunday, October 13, 2013

Finding Gratitude

Readings for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time:

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
October 13, 2013

The setting for today's story about Naaman the Syrian takes place between the borders of Galilee and Samaria and is really a fitting location and involving the Jews and Samaritans. For you see the land itself is very much a part of this biblical drama.

You may well remember the story of Naaman not recorded this morning but is covered in earlier passages of the same book of Kings where we learn he was a commander in the Army of the king of Aram.

This Naaman had leprosy and if you remember that in that day leprosy was really an opportunity to anticipate your own death for there was no cure. A little girl captured from the land of Israel encouraged her master to seek healing in the land of Israel.

From there we pick up the story in today's readings from the second book of Kings, he is told by an aid of the prophet to plunge into the Jordan seven times and his flesh would be healed. Upset at the lack of attention, I guess, he said are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all of the waters of Israel, could not I wash in them and be cleansed? As the story goes, he leaves angry.

But once again encouraged by his own people he does what the prophet has commanded and washes in the Jordan and is cleansed. In much gratitude now, he returns to the prophet Elisha to offer a gift. Even after some insistence Elisha turns down the gift. But here's a little twist in the story that needs a little investigating to understand. For he asks for two mule-loads of earth.

Why? As they believed in those days, gods were not transferable from one nation to another or one people to another. Naaman asks for these two mule loads of earth that he could take back to his own country so as build on it an altar upon which to offer holocausts or sacrifice to no other God than to the God of Elisa. A story of gratitude.

We look now to the story of the 10 lepers found in our Gospel reading for today. Leprosy in that day was so horrible a disease that people who had leprosy were ousted from the community they could not come within say 8 to 10 feet, even of family members. And in the case of a windy day even required even to stay further away, so afraid where they of catching this, so horrible disease of leprosy.

As the story is recorded for us today we hear the 10 lepers petitioning Christ, saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!" Jesus tells them that they must go to the priest and show themselves because until they do they really cannot enter back into society. Nine, did as they were told but one, we are told, was a Samaritan. So! you may wonder, why is that such a big deal. Will first of all, the Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans, but in this story Jesus is telling them and us that the Samaritans, too, are to receive God's mercy. The key to this story is the gratitude of the one and the ingratitude of the nine.

I want to pose a question for you today and that is concerning your gratitude to Almighty God for what he has given you and is still giving you every day of your life? Maybe I should even clarify that question by asking you point-blank why are you here today? Why do you come back every week and celebrate the Mass with our priest, how would you answer that? Would you say that you come regular because the church obliges you to? Or is it the command to keep Holy the Sabbath? Some may respond that they want to offer a good example to their children. Others may say well it's become a habit.

Still others look upon their weekly worship as an expression of faith, a spiritual oasis if you will, a place to fuel up for the week ahead. For many of us, the words of Vatican II come quickly to mind: "The liturgy is the summit toward which the activities of the Church is directed and the font from which all its power flows. The goal of apostolic endeavor is that all who are made Suns and Daughters of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of the church, to take part in the sacrifice and eat the Lord's supper."

If in much gratitude to Almighty God for all that he has given us, including life, should we not spend at least one hour per week in giving thanks. We have the opportunity in every Eucharistic encounter to be transformed by God and by grace. We are chosen not just to pray, pray and obey, but to be so in love with Jesus and so passionate about the Gospel that we cannot help but Glorify God, fall at Jesus' feet and thank him. Is not this what keeps bringing us back to the One who never stops giving: loving, is compassionate, forgiving, and each time we returned Jesus, will assure us," stand up and go, your faith has saved you." Gratitude, is the key, do you really understand what God has done for you? If you are really, steeped in much gratitude to Almighty God for all that is done for you how can you stay away?

You will note: that for the most part I am back with you. I had a rough go of eight days in the hospital and many more days in recovery and I'm still not sure about the recovery part but may be being almost 80 years old has something do with that as well, don't you suppose. Being as how our theme for this homily is gratitude I wish to express my gratitude to all of you for your prayers and your concerns and especially those doctors and nurses who cared for me those eight days and on going, because without their tender loving care I probably wouldn't be here today. And I want to say a special thank you to the lady who cleaned my bedroom after a night doing battle with my inability to stand which turned out to be the beginning of this whole episode. God bless you all and thank you I promise to keep you in my prayers.

Be good, be Holy, Preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words.

'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.

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