Oct 8, 2016

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lk 17:11-19

A similar incident is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (Mat.8: 1-4). Jesus cleanses a man from leprosy. In that incident, the Lord reached out and touched the “contagious” individual. It implied that both were not afraid of each other for they talked face to face. No doubt Christ saw the torment in that leper’s eyes and was moved with compassion at his agony of body and soul. Yet, in today’s Gospel, according to St. Luke, ten lepers keep their distance from the Lord. They know their condition, afraid they must be to approach Christ in their ugliness and destitution. They keep their distance and call out to the Lord, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us.”

A few Sunday’s ago, we heard a similar call for pity being called out from a distance – from the rich man who died and went to hell for he ignored his responsibilities to the likes of the poor Lazarus who also died and went to heaven (Lk 16:19-31). Remember what the rich men called out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me…I am suffering torment in these flames”. And Abraham calls back reminding the punished soul that the distance between heaven and hell cannot be bridged. But, regardless of our own circumstances in his life, despite how unjustly we think life has been dealt out to us, this is not hell. Unlike hell, where all is eternal and time does not exist, we have time and time not only is a great healer. Time can also save us. We should be grateful for the gift of time.

The Gospel today can help us reflect, not only on those who are deemed outcasts by society. There are many who truly need our compassionate outreach. But closer to home, for this is where we begin, we should first reflect on how we can easily distance ourselves from Christ and even how we can grow content with that distance to the point that we allow ourselves to be shaped by other influences such as work, school, sports or even retirement. 

It is no exaggeration that sin serves the purpose to widen the gap between us and our Savior, pushing this gap even into eternity when time runs out. It is, in a way, like a spiritual leprosy, which if left untreated can eat away at our very souls. By its nature, whether we freely choose it or allow it to creep into our lives by ignoring its reality, it can create distance between us and the Lord affecting our relationship with the world and our social responsibilities.

If you sense a distance between yourself and God never be content with it and do not allow it to widen. Never assume that this is the way it should be, an excuse that there should be a wide gulf between me and God, after all he is God and I am a mere mortal! 

Because of Christ, that is not the way it should be. As a point of reference, the Church’s liturgy makes the point (and this is further developed in the Eastern liturgies). The prayer of the priest when he adds a few drops of water into the wine reads “may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbles himself to share in our humanity”. Because of Christ, there can be no distance between God and humanity.

For this reason you can be assured that if you call out to God, he will hear and Christ bridges the distance. But you have to call out loud, not in a whisper. Like the ten lepers with whom we are surely numbered, together we have to recognize our sinfulness, we have to encourage and direct our efforts and help each other to respond to the Lord’s directives, despite what can often get in the way.

Sometimes it takes a community of sinners, as we are, to band together with a common purpose to approach the Lord and call out to Him for help. And that we do. But the gospel highlights a common statistic - that it is usually one in ten who will actually recognize that their blessings have come from God and not from their own efforts and to God they return to give thanks. There can be no other reason why we are here every Sunday but to give thanks and praise to God for what he has done for us. 

If the Gospel today serves as our standard, nine out of ten are blessed indeed but will never come close to seeing the face of Christ. Only one in ten “sees” their salvation. “That one is given much more than the rest. Besides being healed, he was told, ‘Stand up and go, your faith has save you’”. (Athanasius, Festal Letter 6). 

If you have not heard his voice in your soul, or felt his breath upon your heart, it is time to return to the Lord. This Holy Eucharist provides us not only the opportunity, but also with the Lord Himself. To recognize our Savior here in the Blessed Sacrament means that we can not take for granted all he has done for you and me personally. That makes this a time of reflection and a time of thanksgiving. (cf. CCC 2637)

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