Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 13, 2013
2 Kings 5:14-17; Psalm 98; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19

The leprous Naaman reluctantly gives in to the prophet Elisha and washes himself in the Jordan River seven times only to find his skin healed of the unsightly disease. His period of isolation ends and he can rejoin his community. He seeks out Elisha and professes his belief in Elisha’s God and wants to make a token offering of his gratitude because he is indebted to this man of God. Naaman’s desire to repay the prophet is healthy while Elisha, as a minister of God, rightly refuses the honor because the healing is properly credited to the Lord God, not to him.

Jesus reenacts Elisha’s story with the healing of ten lepers. Naaman is not a Jew, and his conversion away from his faith to the Jewish God means that he has to reorder his entire life. The tale of the foreigners is significant because they are the ones who show healthy gratitude, while those most familiar to the faith are less impressed. As a man shunned by society, he has nothing to offer Jesus but his tears of praise.  The healed leper also comes to faith through Jesus and receives salvation and his thankfulness was the cause of it. Gratitude shows that one has generosity of heart, a necessary precondition of a vibrant spiritual life.

Early in my life, I deflected anyone’s complements and their words of thanks. People would get frustrated with me because they wanted me to honor what they were saying and I was unaware that my responses were sloughing off those who were expressing their thanks. I reasoned that I should not be taking credit for something that was God’s gift or for something that did not take much of an effort. I thought I was being humble, but it was not received the way I intended. I had to get over myself and learn to be more concerned with the one who stood in front of me waiting for me to receive their good words.

Take someone’s gratitude seriously. Look at them in the eye and say, “You are welcome.” They want you to acknowledge the strengthening relationship they have with you and if they are willing to express their honor towards you, receive it as graciously as they intend. By doing so, you behold them and commit in friendship back to them. Receive it with as few words as possible and you will find something changing within you. Silence is your friend and gratitude is concerned with the total relationship, not the individual deed.

We naturally want to offer some expression of care when we are thankful. We feel inadequate if we cannot give something tangible as a token of our thanks. Naaman offered a generous gift, but Elisha refused it. The leper clung to the feet of Jesus in thanks, and Jesus wondered about the other nine. Ask God to take away your impulse to offer gifts because they complicate matters too much with the strings that are unconsciously attached to them. Instead, take away a symbol or memory of the experience and offer this memory to God who will subsequently bless it. These are the treasures that we stockpile, which cause our hearts to nearly burst because we are immersed in a world of goodness and right relations.

Instead, do what Naaman did. He took dirt from the ground to always remember the encounter. The dirt was a symbol of his newfound faith and it was not something he could own. He was unable to give something to balance out his sense of wonder. It feels odd at first, but we do not have to even out the score. We simply have to live in the wonder of another’s goodness.

A friend of mine wears a sweatshirt that reads, “Meditate: Don’t just do something. Sit there.” It is a good reminder that the most important task for us in prayer is to show up and to allow God to initiate whatever is in God’s mind. It is not up to us. We do not even have to offer anything to God, but our memories, which God can replenish. Scripture repeatedly tells us that God does not want our gifts that we offer in sacrifices and other offerings. God wants us to treat others with mercy and the most gracious task we can do is to behold the person who stands in front of us.

I cannot tell what Jesus thought or felt about the other nine healed Jewish lepers who deprived themselves of the chance to praise Jesus. I do not want to rush towards conclusions about what was going on inside of them. I just know that a life without thankfulness and gratitude is a bankrupt one. Life is dour and devoid of the meaningfulness that makes life worth living, but I firmly believe that we can help turn a person’s life around when we simply behold them and honor them – even a person with extreme negativity.  I am not responsible for their responses or behavior, but I know I can hold them before my eyes and try to let God love them through me. That is enough for me because God will do the rest.

I think of the many ways I am grateful for striving to behold the lives of my parishioners, friends, and loved ones. I offer them to God as gifts in my life and I know I am the richer person for receiving them into my life. Gratitude makes my heart reach up to God so that God reaches back and touches it. My response is my happiness and contentment in my life of pastoral service to God’s people. Allow your heart to express aloud your gratitude to God this week. Do it week after week until you have developed a culture of gratitude and you will find your life moving towards one of constant happiness. Everything in your life will adjust accordingly and you will begin to see and love the world as God does. Your gratitude will change your world.
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Romans, Paul tells his followers that he has been set apart by the grace of God to tell the story of the Christ to the Gentiles. Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel because the power of God is for the salvation of everyone who believes, and God’s wrath is unveiled against those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. Paul tells the Romans they have no excuses for the standards they set for their moral lives. By their actions, they are building up affliction and distress because of the evil they do. He explains that the righteous of God is made manifest apart from the law because it rests in the person of Jesus, whom God set forth as expiation for sins. The law is no longer needed for salvation. ~  On the feast of Luke, Paul upholds that Luke is the only one with him on his journey to five cities in Asia Minor while all the others deserted him. ~ The promise made to Abraham and his descendants was not made through the law, but through the righteousness that comes from faith. Abraham is to be esteemed for his righteousness; All Christians are to emulate his righteousness.

Gospel: Jesus tells the growing crowd that the present generation is an evil one and it seeks signs, but no sign will be given because something greater than Jonah and Solomon is in their midst. Jesus was invited for dinner at a Pharisees home, but he was called out for not washing his hands as it is prescribed in the Mosaic Law. Jesus tells them that he is concerned about the interior cleanliness of a person. He then rails against the Pharisees for their hypocrisy because they do not attend to the love of God and they place heavy burdens on others to carry out, but they take the comfortable route. They also build monuments to prophets their ancestors killed, which make them complicit in the killing. They have taken away the key of knowledge and stopped those trying to enter. ~ On the feast of Luke, Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples to preach and to prepare a place of hospitality for Jesus who will follow their travels. ~ Jesus tells the crowds that everyone who acknowledges him before others will cause Jesus to acknowledge him or her before the angels of God, but if anyone speaks a word against him, he or she will not be forgiven.

Saints of the Week

October 14: Callistus I, pope and martyr (d. 222) was a slave of a Christian who put him in charge of a bank that failed. He was jailed and upon his release became a deacon and counselor to Pope Zephyrinus. He became the first overseer of the official Christian cemetery that was eventually named after him. When he was elected Pope he introduced humanitarian reforms. He died during an uprising against Christians. 

October 15: Teresa of Avila, doctor (1873-1897), entered the Carmelites at age 15 and died at age 24 from tuberculosis. During her illness, Pauline, her prioress, asked her to write about her life in the convent. These stories are captured in "The Story of a Soul." He focused on her "little way" of pursuing holiness in everyday life.

October 16: Hedwig, religious, at age 12 married Henry, a prince who would become king of Silesia. As a monarch, they built a Cistercian monastery for women. They soon built many other religious houses and hospitals. She chose to live in austere poverty to be in solidarity with the poor.

October 16: Margaret Mary Alocoque entered the Visitation Order at Paray-le-Monial in 1671. She received visions of Christ's love and told her Jesuit spiritual director, Claude la Colombiere, who asked her to write about her experiences. They developed the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her community resisted her promotion of the devotion at first, but later came to see the power of the prayers.

October 17: Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr (d. 107) was born around 33 A.D. and became a leading figure in the new church at Antioch. He served as bishop for 38 years before he was persecuted and killed under Emperor Trajan for being a Christian leader. He wrote seven letters about church life in the early second century and is the first-mentioned martyr of Roman heroes in the first Eucharistic Prayer.

October 18: Luke, evangelist (first century) was the author of his version of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He is described as a doctor and a friend of Paul. He was a well-educated Gentile who was familiar with the Jewish scriptures and he wrote to other Gentiles who were coming into a faith.

October 19: North American Jesuit martyrs: Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, priests, and companions (17th century) were killed between 1642 and 1649 in Canada and the United States. Though they knew of harsh conditions among the warring Huron and Mohawk tribes in the New World, these priests and laymen persisted in evangelizing until they were captured, brutally tortured, and barbarically killed.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      October 13, 1537: At Venice the Papal Nuncio published his written verdict declaring that Ignatius Loyola was innocent of all charges which had been leveled against him by his detractors.
·      October 14, 1774: A French Jesuit in China wrote an epitaph to the Jesuit mission in China after the suppression of the Society. It concludes: "Go, traveler, continue on your way. Felicitate the dead; weep for the living; pray for all. Wonder, and be silent."
·      October 15, 1582: St Teresa of Avila died on this day -- the first day of the new Gregorian calendar. She always wished to have a Jesuit as a confessor.
·      October 16, 1873: About two weeks after Victor Emmanuel's visit to Berlin, where he had long conferences with Bismark, rumors reached the Society in Rome that all of their houses in Rome were threatened.
·      October 17, 1578: St Robert Bellarmine entered the Jesuit novitiate of San Andrea in Rome at the age of 16.
·      October 18, 1553: A theological course was opened in our college in Lisbon; 400 students were at once enrolled.
·      October 19, 1588: At Munster, in Westphalia, the Society opens a college, in spite of an outcry raised locally by some of the Protestants.