A Homily for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Sunday, October 9, 2022
Holy Ghost Church – 10:00 Mass
2 Kings 5:14-17; Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19
Today our readings are calling us to reflect on something that is critical for our spiritual wellness and growth – the virtue of GRATITUDE.
In ancient Israel, nothing was more pitiable than a leper. They were prohibited from entering any town, since their disease was considered to be so contagious. They had to continuously shout “Unclean!” so people knew a leper was approaching and could clear the area. They couldn’t come within 50 yards of a healthy person.
Theirs was a life of total isolation: no friendship, no sense of belonging, no affection. They knew full well how much they were in need of healing of this terrible disease, a disease that was destroying them both physically and socially. And in today’s gospel we meet ten of them. They stood off at a distance and shouted to Jesus, “Jesus, master, have pity on us!” And Jesus heard them and healed them, sending them off to the priests so that they could be declared clean so they could again function fully as members of society.
In spite of their understanding as to how life-changing this healing was for them, only one leper came back to thank Jesus. We can almost hear the sadness in Christ’s heart at the lack of gratitude in the other nine who were healed.
Why does Christ value gratitude so much? Is he vain? Is his self-esteem so weak that he gets depressed if we don’t praise and thank him? No! He values gratitude because gratitude is valuable – it’s valuable for us, for the health of our souls.
In the first place, gratitude keeps us grounded in the truth, which is key for our ongoing relationship with God. To be ungrateful to God is not only unjust, but it’s also living an illusion. The simple fact is that everything we have is a gift from God and it is right and just to thank him for these gifts.
In the second place, gratitude is the perfect antidote to sin. Sin turns us in on our selves, like an ingrown toenail; gratitude opens us up to God and neighbor. It directly contradicts self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and self-absorption. It builds bridges, unites communities, and softens hearts.
It counteracts depression and releases anxiety.
G.K. Chesterton once said: “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
Those other nine ungrateful lepers are like many of us, aren’t they? I know that I have often been guilty of taking my life as a Christian for granted. I have been guilty of not giving God thanks for cleansing me from a state of darkness even more deadly than leprosy: the state of original sin, from which we were all cleansed at our baptism.
In fact it wasn’t until a few years ago that I even knew and celebrated the date of my baptism, which is a far more important date for a Christian to remember than our birthday. Do you know the date of your baptism?
You see, I believe that one of the reasons why we don’t offer God our gratitude for what he has done for each us is because we don’t REALLY understand WHAT he has done for us in Christ. We don’t understand that as a result of original sin we were held in a state of captivity by the Evil One that offered no hope for escape.
If Christ had not come to RESCUE us from this state of total separation from God, this state of total isolation from our Creator with no hope of ever entering into his presence when we die, then the best we could ever hope for in life is to get as much power and pleasure for ourselves in a span of something less than ten short decades. Pleasure and riches that we would extract from others through acts of selfishness and greed.
And for many of us, we would be doomed to live many of those decades in pain and suffering, due to physical or mental ailments and poverty. Without Christ we would be doomed to find no redemption in our suffering and to end our short lives with no hope, dying forever into a blackness that is eternal separation from God in a state of eternal torment. This torment is FAR GREATER than the torment that the lepers experienced in today’s gospel.
But, thanks be to God, we have a savior, one who has RESCUED us from this state of eternal torment! The Son of God, the One who spoke the universe into being, came among us to save us, to heal us, and to restore us to friendship with God. And not only friendship, but ADOPTION! Yes, through our baptism we are TRULY children of God! WOW!
Jesus Christ has done so much more for us than we can ever imagine! He took all of our sins upon himself and nailed them to the cross! He experienced the torment that was rightfully ours to truly and definitively defeat for each of us the power of sin and death!
And how do many of us thank him regularly for this extraordinary gift of freedom from sin and eternal death?
Well, we fulfill our weekly obligation to come to Mass for an hour and maybe we say a quick prayer or two when we remember. Maybe we even pray before our meals, maybe even when we’re dining in public. But for many of us, that’s about it. The rest of our week is pretty much filled with worldly concerns. Many Catholics give God very little thought throughout our week until Saturday night when we reluctantly consider which Mass we’re going to attend tomorrow. Have I described anyone here today?
So how do we show God our gratitude for the many gifts he has given us, especially the gift of eternal life? Here are but a few practical tips.
At the end of each day, dedicate a few minutes to reviewing how God has revealed himself to you throughout the day and thank him for these encounters. This keeps our hearts alive with gratitude.
It’s vital to form the habit of thanking God throughout the day. When something good happens, say “Thank you Jesus for your friendship and your love.” When something unpleasant happens, say “Thank you Jesus, for your friendship and your love.”
Finally, establish a habit of setting aside time every day to pray by yourself and with your family. I know we’re all busy, but making this time for God is essential if we are to grow in our faith and in gratitude for the many gifts we have been given.
And now as we prepare to receive the best Gift of all gifts, Jesus himself, fully present in the Eucharist let’s open our hearts to recognize that he is our savior and that he loves us with an immeasurable love. Let us thank him, and ask him to give us the gift of a truly GRATEFUL heart for everything he has done and is doing for us.