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Twenty-eighth Sunday – Year C – Ordinary Time
Readings: 2 Kgs 5:14-17; 2 Tim 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19.
1/ Reading I: RSV 2 Kings 5:14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him; and he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, I pray you, let there be given to your servant two mules’ burden of earth; for henceforth your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the LORD.
2/ Reading II: RSV 2 Timothy 2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel, 9 the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory. 11 The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; 12 if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.
3/ Gospel: RSV Luke 17:11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
I. THEME: Gratitude
Nobody like the ingratitude; but many of us are often ungrateful to God, our parents and benefactors. In order to show our appreciation, we need to recognize the favors which others have done for us; do not suppose everything must happen as such; for examples, God must give grace; parents must take care of their children; leaders must protect their people, etc. We need to know what we are having can be taken away anytime. Some are afraid of recognizing favors because they have to return their favors; so, they are ingratitude. These people forget that if they are grateful, they might receive more favors, and their life shall be much better. The ingratitude shall gradually be isolated and avoided by others.
Today readings concentrate on the two aspects of gratitude: First, to recognize the favor which the benefactor has done; and secondly, to thank him/her by concrete acts. In the first reading, Naaman, a Syrian commander, recognized the Israelites’ God who healed him from leprosy; so, he returned to and thanked the prophet Elisha because he is God’s instrument for healing, and promised that from now on he shall not worship any god besides the Israelites’ God. In the second reading, Paul recognized what Christ has done for him on the way to Damascus and others in his death and resurrection so he advised Timothy, his disciple, to be loyal in sufferings to preach the Gospel for everyone so that they might also enjoy the eternal life. In the Gospel, the Samarian leper was the only one who recognized Christ’s healing and returned to thank him for that. By his gratitude, he received more grace which is the salvation.
1/ Reading I: “Your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.”
1.1/ Naaman, the Syrian commander recognized the Israelites’ God has healed him.
Before Naaman obeyed Elisha and dipped himself seven times in Jordan’s river, he was struggled with many inside trials, such as: Why the prophet Elisha didn’t come out to welcome him? Why the prophet insulted him by only sending his servant to come out with a simple command, “Emerge seven times in Jordan’s river shall be cleaned!” He asked himself, “Why does he have to emerge seven times in the Israelites’ River while many Syrian rivers are cleaner?” And he angrily returned to his country.
His servants opened his mind so he could recognize his unreasonableness by saying: He himself is the one who needs to receive the favor; not the way around. He spent much effort to go to Israel, now he needs only to obey the person of God by humbly dipping seven times in Jordan’s river to be clean. Why doesn’t he do such a simple and easy act to get rid of a danger and life-lasting disease?
Coming to his sense, Naaman recognized his absurd thinking; he thought he should humbly act according to Elisha’s command, “So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
1.2/ Naaman vowed that he shall not worship any god besides the Elisha’s God.
When Naaman realized he was healed by God of the prophet Elisha, he and all his company returned to the man of God, and stood before him; and he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” Not only he was healed bodily by becoming clean from leprosy, but he was also healed from his spiritual blindness by recognizing the Israel’s God is only the true God; and his duty is to worship Him.
When Naaman offered his gifts to show his gratitude, Elisha didn’t receive because the prophet knew well that the healing is from God, not from him. If he received the gifts from Naaman, he steals God’s work, and might cause misunderstanding from the healed. This must be the important lesson for us. All are God’s grace. We should never take God’s grace as ours. We need to tell the received so he knows the reason for his favor and thank God properly.
Why did Naaman want to ask Elisha for two mules’ burden of earth? It might be that he could build the altar to worship God, as he said, “Your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.”
2/ Reading II: Christ, the great benefactor of human beings
2.1/ Paul recognized what Christ has done for him and the humankind.
To understand what Paul said, we need to come back to the important event which happened to him on the way to Damascus. Paul recognized all the great favors which God bestowed on him. Some of these are:
(1) The spiritual favors: God let him see the Resurrected Christ; helped him to change his prideful attitude so he could see that people are saved by grace and faith in Christ, not by carefully keeping of the Law. The eternal life is real and all of Christ’s teaching is the truth.
(2) The bodily favors: God healed him from blindness and death. Paul also recognized Christ is the great benefactor of the humankind by his advice to Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel.” He died in place of people; he redeemed all of their sins. He brings back the eternal life which was lost by sins for people.
2.2/ Paul was ready to suffer all things to benefit those whom God chooses.
Once Paul recognized all the favors which God has done for him, he decides to spend the rest of his life to return favors by fulfilling the mission which Christ commissioned him, that is, to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul clearly experienced suffering in the three missionary journeys. He suffered much to bring the Gospel to people and to show his faithfulness for Christ.
One of important lesson which Paul taught people is “to imitate him as he imitated Christ.” Christ had no sin, but he was ready to suffer for the salvation of souls. St. Paul was also suffered as a criminal because he preached the Gospel. He said, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.” Paul wrote this Letter to Timothy when he was in prison at Rome to advice Timothy that he must also be ready to suffer for the preaching of the Gospel. He advised Timothy to imitate him as he imitated Christ, so God’s words aren’t chained. The wicked people can put preachers in prison; but no one can chain God’s words because they last forever.
Only in trial and suffering a person shall know who is loyal to him. The one who avoids the suffering friend isn’t the true friend. Jesus said to his disciples, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:32-33). St. Paul also repeated this teaching in other words, “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.”
3/ Gospel: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
3.1/ The Samarian leper recognized God has healed him.
St. Luke began the report as follows, “On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.””
Some Jewish tradition about the treatment of lepers we should know before we analyze today passage:
(1) The Israelites pay a special attention both inside and outside appearances; therefore, the lepers can’t live with others but must live separately in the camp outside of people’s living (Cf. Lev 13:46; Num 5:2). They have no permission to contact with healthy people. Every time when seeing a healthy person passes by the leper must stop and shout aloud so the healthy person might know of his presence and avoid him (Lev 13:45).
(2) There is no doctor in the ancient time. To show a leper is free from leprosy, he must be examined by a priest. When the priest proclaims that he is clean; then he can return to live with the healthy’s camp (Lev 14:2-3). This is the reason why Jesus told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
Jesus put all ten of them to the test when he told this command; because in the beginning, no one is clean. Only when they were on the way, they recognized that they are clean.
3.2/ The Samarian returned to thank Jesus.
St. Luke continued his report, “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?””
To appreciate the favor is to deserve another favor. Jesus said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Not only he was clean from the outside, the leprosy; but he also was clean from inside, the sins. It is about his faith in Jesus that caused him to have the salvation.
Why other nine persons were ingratitude? There are many reasons: Firstly, because they don’t reflect to recognize it is a favor; they think everything in this world naturally exist and don’t question the cause of their being. Secondly, they suppose that everyone must act as such: God must give grace; parents must raise their children; teachers must teach their students. Lastly, they are afraid that if they recognize a favor, they must return with a favor; therefore, they are ingratitude with God, their parents and others. Those who have such kind of attitude shall not endure because they shall be avoided by God and others.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must use our intellect to recognize favors and our memory to count all blessings which we received. Laziness and indifference make people not to recognize favors which they already received.
– Recognizing a favor is the condition to receive another favor, sometime the latter is greater than the former. The ingratitude shall not receive other favor.
– We must not simply recognize a favor, but we must also say thanks and find an opportunity to return that favor.
– We can’t return favors to God. We can only do good deeds to others and God counts them as doing to Him. What we do to others isn’t only to return favors to God in this life, but our good deeds also become our merits for the next life. Therefore, try to help others as much as possible.
– We must show our gratitude to our parents who bore, gave birth, raised and taught us at least a quarter of our life. When they grow old and can’t no longer care for themselves, we must care for them. Don’t put them in nursing homes and said to ourselves, “The government shall care for them better than us!”