FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, October 9, 2022:
One day, a man went into a crowded restaurant to have a meal and just as he was about to begin, another man approached and asked if he could join him. The man invited his new friend to have a seat and, as was his custom, bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, “What are you doing?” The first man replied, “I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat.” The man said, “Oh, you’re one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know that I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don’t have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!” The first man paused and said, “You know, you’re just like my dog. He does the same thing!”
“And he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” The theme of thanksgiving winds its way through all of our readings today. In our first reading, Naaman the Syrian is healed from leprosy. His response is a great example of thanksgiving. Having been healed, he recognizes that God was powerfully at work through Elisha the prophet, and he makes a public profession of his conviction. He said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel” and promises to offer sacrifice only to the one true God.
As we heard in our Gospel, “One of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” Our Scriptures remind us today that there are a lot of people in our world who are just like the man in our story, believing that they have earned every good that comes their way and, therefore, do not need to thank anyone or even God for their blessings. They forget that the blessings that come into our lives are first God’s blessings long before they become our achievements. Just think from the earliest moments of life - what did any of us do to “earn” being born? What did we do to deserve our parents and family? What did we do to have eyes to see, ears to hear, tongues to speak, feet to walk? How much did we to be intelligent or beautiful people? And certainly, what could we ever do to merit salvation and the reward of eternal life?
My friends, the message is simple and clear today: too often, we take our blessings for granted. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If the stars should only appear but one night every thousand years, how we would marvel and stare.” Friends, we have seen the stars so often that we don’t even bother to look up anymore. How easily we grow accustomed to our blessings and forget to give thanks for them.
In today’s Gospel Jesus heals 10 lepers, yet only one returns to thank Him. Why didn’t the other nine lepers return? Here are some possibilities, maybe we’ve used excuses like this ourselves: Perhaps one said, “Jesus told us to go to the priest. He would be mad if we return now.” Perhaps one said, “I think we need to wait and see if the cure is real.” Perhaps another said, “There’s plenty of time to see Jesus later, if we need to.” Perhaps one said, “Maybe we never even had leprosy in the first place.” Maybe another said, “There was no doubt in my mind that we would get well eventually.” Another might have said, “Jesus didn’t do anything special; any rabbi could have healed us.” And, perhaps one said, “Now that we are healed, we don’t need Him.”
We’ve all been in the position of making excuses that seem to make sense in the moment, but are really, in the end, just a lack of gratitude. Ingratitude is nothing more complicated than putting our personal needs before other’s needs; putting ourselves and our abilities before God. But, luckily for us, there is the 10th leper today who says nothing but simply turns back to thank Jesus. He follows the impulse of his heart; the impulse of gratitude to God for the wondrous blessing – surely, the miraculous blessing – that he has received.
I can’t help but think about how this story today ties in to what we do each Sunday as we gather for the Holy Mass. The whole reason we gather each week is the same – not to get something, but to give something. We come here each week to give thanks to God for the myriad ways that He has blessed us. The very word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word meaning “to give thanks.” If we count our blessing, if we realize that all is from above, from God, then we will act like the 10th leper when he realized he was healed – we return with joy and give God thanks and praise; and we do this every Sunday. How often I hear people say, “Do you think God really cares whether or not I’m at Mass? Does it even matter?” To that question, we hear Jesus say today, “Where are the other nine?” Let us never be counted among that number. God does care.
“One of them…returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” My friends, for all that is blessed in our lives, we need to give thanks; for the grace of God’s mercy daily in our lives, we need to give thanks; for the gifts that we receive each day; we need to give thanks. Let us be like Number 10 and return to the Lord, falling on our knees, as a people who give thanks to God for all the blessings we have in life; in fact, for the blessing of life itself.
I think of the refrain of one of my favorite hymns that says, “Give thanks with a grateful heart. Give thanks to the Holy One. Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son!” Today, in the midst of this Holy Mass, let us fall to our knees at the feet of Jesus and thank Him.
May the Lord give you peace.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.