28 Sunday C -10 Lepers - Homilies



LEPROSY
Almost every age has had its social outcasts, people barred from normal society whether through physical illness or national origin. One person who stepped across these barriers in India was pioneer missionary Mary Reed. Already working in India, Mary visited a leper colony and was deeply moved by the people's plight. Later Mary contracted leprosy herself and went to work with the lepers, eager to tell them that she knew firsthand their pain and trauma. She became head of the leper colony she had visited, and in the years following many were saved and a church built. Mary retired at the age of eighty-four after many years of faithful service to these social outcasts. 
Today in the Word, January, 1990, p. 24.
 

Once upon a time there was a man who was struck down in his early thirties who was diagnosed with  brain cancer. He had a wife and young children and a promising career. Suddenly all of that was swept away from him. He could barely talk or walk. He was in constant agony. His friends and his family, except for his wife and mother, avoided him. The doctors shook their head. It was too bad. He was a nice man and deserved longer life. But there was nothing they could.

At last he went to a very famous doctor who offered to operate on him, even though everyone else said the tumor was inoperable. The doctor warned the patient and his wife that he could very well die during the operation, though he (the doctor) was pretty sure that he would survive and return to health. They decided that they should take the risk.  

After nine hours of surgery, the doctor came into the waiting room, grinned at the man’s wife and said, “Got it!” The man recovered and went on to a happy and successful life. Twenty years later the surgeon died. We should go to the wake, the patient’s wife said. I’d like to, her husband replied. But it’s on the weekend and I have an important golf tournament. 

Andrew Greeley 

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Does Everyone Do That?   

The story is told of a farmer who went into town for a little breakfast. As his meal was set before him, he bowed his head and offered a silent prayer. The man at the next table derided him, "Hey, does everybody do that where you come from?" "No," said the farmer. "The pigs don't."  

 Frank Lyman

Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

We have gathered here to encounter Jesus our Lord and give praise to God our Father. We meet Jesus in meeting one another, we meet him in the scriptures to which we will listen, and we meet him in sharing in his body and blood at his table, and in union with him we will offer prayer and praise to the Father. These thoughts of meeting Jesus and joining him in the praise of God are very central to our gathering today when we hear the story of the ten lepers who asked Jesus for healing, but of whom only one of the ten came back to thank him. Like those lepers seeking healing, our first thought when we gather is to cry:
‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’
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Michel de Verteuil
 
General Textual Comments

This Sunday’s reading, though seemingly straightforward, is in fact a combination of two separate stories:
- Jesus heals ten lepers (verses 11 to 14);
- the grateful Samaritan earns Jesus’ praise and an additional healing (verses 15 to 19).
Modern scholarship has shown that the two stories were originally separate and were combined in one text only gradually and after some time. You are in line with the truth of the text therefore if you choose to focus on one story alone, the one which happens to touch you here and now.
A caution, however. Most people coming to church on this Sunday are looking for a comment on the story of the Samaritan, and those who give homilies must take this into consideration when choosing what topic they will share on. Thos who are reading the passage for personal meditation do not have that kind of responsibility to the community and are free to focus on the other story – the healing of the lepers.

Textual Comments
The lepers – verses 11-14
Leprosy in the gospels is symbolic of the situation from which God willed to rescue his people. It is so in two ways:
- it disfigured people;
- those suffering from it were considered unclean and kept away from the community.
Jesus’ response to lepers invites us to celebrate those who act like him, towards us or others. It also calls us to repentance as individuals and as Church communities – this is the role we should be playing in our communities and in society.
In your meditation remember “lepers” in your family, neighbourhood, classroom, workplace, society – people who are looked down on because they are disfigured in some way, and also those who may not be physically disfigured but are considered “unclean” for some other reason: the mentally ill; those suffering from AIDS; ex-prisoners; gays and lesbians in certain communities; Asians in many countries of the world since the September 11 attacks; immigrants and asylum seekers; people who belong to minority ethnic or racial groups.
J & 10 lepersThe lepers in the gospel story cry out, “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.” The lepers of our experience also cry out, but they often do so in different ways:
a) they behave badly – children are rebellious; students are unruly in the classroom; gangs of youths engage in destructive behaviour; adults argue their point of view aggressively and even violently; they become alcoholics or give in to some form of addiction. The root cause in many cases is an inferiority complex; they feel that others look down on them, that they are “lepers” in their families or neighbourhoods.
b) Often they are silently uncooperative and surly, engaging in what psychologists  call “passive aggression”. They refuse to come to church, to attend community meetings or to participate in family discussions.
The text says that Jesus “saw” the lepers. The expression is significant; it says that whereas others simply passed by, he took note of their condition. Nowadays this would include interpreting the behaviour patterns mentioned above.
It is significant too that Jesus met the lepers “as he traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.” It is only if we take the risk of “traveling along the borders” of our communities that we will meet the lepers of our time.
The expression “go and show yourselves to the priests” is also significant, especially today. In the time of Jesus, the priests were civil authorities so that the text simply meant “go with confidence to the leaders of the community.” Today many “lepers” are rejected by their church communities or religious groups; they internalize this rejection and end up having guilt feelings about themselves. Jesus people give them the assurance that they have the right to “show themselves” to the “priests” of their culture; these include all those who dictate religious attitudes – parents, teachers, parish lay leaders, the “holy people” of the community.
“As they were going their way they were cleansed.” Jesus had worked a miraculous cure but the text hints that their setting out with confidence to “show themselves to the priests” had a healing effect – which corresponds to our experience.

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Gospel notes
This story is found only in Luke and is without any parallel in the writings extant from the first generations of Christians. Geographical locations in Luke are symbolical rather than historical: by placing this event on the border Luke is putting before us one of his key themes, in both the gospel and Acts, that Jesus is God’s salvation for all people. The focus of the incident is not the fact that ten were healed, but that one could see what the fact of being healed meant. When the Samaritan saw that he was healed, he then understood that he had not only encountered healing but salvation. His return to Jesus, in the light of this seeing beyond the healing which is understanding, is then equivalent to conversion and a declaration of faith — hence the final words: ‘Your faith has saved you.’ Note that it was not faith that ‘healed’ him — that was the direct and generous act of God, but salvation demanded the response of faith which is his coming back to Jesus with understanding. This point is, however, obscured by sloppy translating in the JB version in the Lectionary: it reads ‘finding himself cured’, whereas the key verb is that of seeing and so the verse should be rendered as ‘Then one of them, seeing that he was healed (idón hoti iathé), turned back …‘
The story also presents in a nugget Luke’s comprehensive outlook on the work of Jesus: the story begins with bodily healing, it ends with the wholeness (healing for the whole person) that is the gift of the Saviour.

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ReflectionA useful image to take from these readings is that of the need for the soil to be right if we want God to take root in our lives. Namaan not only goes home cured but also aware of the need to change the way he looks at the world, in other words how he worships. Bringing home a couple of sacks of the soil of Israelis not to be understood as a superstitious act, but as an indication of his desire to take on the ways of Yahweh who had restored him to health. So too Paul advises Timothy that to be a good leader of a Christian community the essential first step is to ensure that he is firmly rooted in his relationship with Jesus.

The grateful Samaritan
Homilists often lay stress on Jesus’ being “hurt” by the nine who did not return to thank him. This is undoubtedly an aspect of the story and as such is a reminder of the humanity of Jesus – like us, he was hurt by ingratitude. But we should not make too much of it; that would be to go against Jesus’ character. He was not the kind of person who would make a fuss about being thanked.  We know people like that and we don’t admire them. The point is not stressed in the text either – Jesus praised the Samaritan for coming back “to praise God”, not himself. Besides, last Sunday’s gospel taught us not to look for thanks when we do good, since we are “doing no more than our duty.” Jesus could not go against his own teaching.
We are more in line with the movement of the passage, then, to interpret the story as a meditation (starting with our own experience as always) on gratitude as a wonderful gift. The focus is not on Jesus but on the Samaritan. What a wonderful person! He reminds us of people who, having gone abroad or to university and become successful, go back to their home town and “throw themselves at the feet” of their teachers and their community leaders. The passage invites us to celebrate such people, they are a real blessing!
“Finding themselves cleansed” is significant – humble people know that though they have worked hard for their success, luck has played a large part too. Jesus said to the Samaritan, “Your faith has saved you,” which means something like “your humble spirit ahs made you a secure person.” This also is the meaning of “stand up and go your way.” People who know how to give thanks are well equipped to face the disappointments of life, they can “stand up and go their way” with enthusiasm and energy. On the contrary, those who do not give thanks – “complainers” – are forever disappointed by life and lack the energy to move forward. Jesus’ words “Where are the nine?” express his regret that they were losing out on something very precious. The fact that only one out of ten “came back to give praise to God” reminds us that gratitude is a rare gift. This is particularly true of our modern Western culture; we are so surrounded by creature comforts that we take God’s blessings for granted and do not “come back to give praise to him.”
This holds for natural things like water, sunlight, clouds, mountains and rivers; for family, friends, neighbors and fellow workers; for good health, and for healthcare.
Samaritans in the gospel symbolize those who have experienced rejection in any form. The story tells us then that such people are naturally more inclined to be grateful. We can conclude that the most effective way to come to gratitude is to remember “where we came from”. Moses made this point when he commanded the people to be compassionate to the stranger, reminding them, “You too were strangers in Egypt.”
This approach is of course radically opposed to the condescension of “aid to the poor countries of the world” that is so common today. We as a Church are often guilty of a similar condescension in our relations with other religions.
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Homily Notes
1. That only 10% of the lepers who were healed would show gratitude may seem to be unusual and indicative of a partic­ularly ungracious group, but it is probably no better or no worse than normal. Do we appreciate the goodness of God to us, and thank him? Are we alert to the wonders of the cre­ation, and then respectful of it? Do we see existence as a di­vine gift and then seek to live in such a way that all creatures are enhanced? Are we anxious to use our individual talents not for personal greed but to build-up a better life for all?
Can we see our riches as offering us the possibility of bring­ing development to the poor and needy? How often do we stop to count our blessings and then seek ways to share those blessings with those suffering under a variety of oppression? How often do we realise that assembling to offer worship to God is an acknowledgement of our predicament as the human family, rather than an activity that might meet some internal need or desire of me as an individual?
J+ 1 good leper2. Ingratitude is not simply a failure to say ‘thanks’ by analogy with the way a child might forget to drop a note of thanks to a far-away aUIt who has sent a birthday present. Ingratitude is a way of existing, a way of viewing the universe, a way of perceiving ourselves, and a way of acting in society and with society’s blessing. Ingratitude does not see the larger picture of our place in the universe within the material creation, with other human beings, or beyond the universe to its source. Ingratitude is the attitude of those who think that they are self-sufficient, that the world and other people are there for my use or for general exploitation, and who think that my / our aggrandisement is the legitimate end of social and econ­omic policy.

3. Developing awareness of our debt to God’s goodness is, however, a complex matter. It needs us to become alive to the sacramental nature of the universe and other people: we dis­cover God’s love and activity in and through the creation of which we are a part. Gratitude results only from a new way of seeing those in need, human society, the world; and for that reason we as believers in the creating goodness and gen­erosity of God can never separate such activities as (1) care of the poor in our society, (2) development in the Third World, (3) ecological concern about the exploitation of the planet, and (4) liturgy. Only someone who sees the goodness of God can understand why we offer thanks in Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Only someone who knows how much our talents are God’s gifts can see the logic of sharing our resources with the needy. Only someone who sees the creation as being alight with the glory of God and pointing beyond itself to the mystery of its Creator will see that exploitation is inherently wrong.
4. The gospel places emphasis on seeing: the Samaritan experienced a moment of God’s goodness – his healing – and this enabled him to see the larger picture and to become thankful. He discovered not only his healing but the source of whole­ness. So this gospel is a call to us to see anew, to renew our imaginations, and to see the mystery of God in the people and world around us.
5. There is a series of ‘A’ words – all of them are variants of ‘seeing’ – that help us to focus on what the gospel calls us to do:
To become attuned to the mystery of God’s goodness hidden within people, situations, and the material world around us. To become aware of those in need of healing.
To become attentive to the cries of the poor, the oppressed, the exploited.
To acknowledge our obligations to others alive today, and to future generations who must live on this God-given earth. To become appreciative of the wonder around us.
To become alert to how simply we can slip into a lifestyle of ingratitude.
To accept the need to praise God if we are to fully understand our human situation.
To become awake to the damage we can do to others and the earth by our carelessness.
To become alive to the dimension of thanksgiving for God’s goodness in the creation in our Sunday liturgy (e.g. the prayers over the gifts) and how that liturgy is linked to care for the poor.
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 Sean Goan
Gospel Notes
We have already seen that Samaritans can, despite the fact that their neighbours consider them inferior, often be role models for Jesus. In today’s gospel we see Jesus performing an act of healing. As with all of Jesus’ miracles this was not performed simply to show he had the power but to allow the sick back into their community. In this case, a group of lepers who are excluded because of their illness can only stand far off and call to Jesus to heal them. This he readily does but the point made in the story is not that Jesus could do this but that people could still be so ungrateful. Blessed as we are in so many ways, it is easy to take things for granted. The Samaritan in the gospel is there to remind us that learning to say thanks is a simple way to nourish our relationship with God.
Naaman is Healed and Happy
Naaman is Healed and Happy

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Prayer Reflection
“The important events in history are the thousands of humble actions that heal and reconcile.”  Cardinal Arns
Lord, we think today of the many lepers in our society who stand some way off
and call to those passing by, “Master, take pity on us.”
We thank you for the Jesus people who notice them
as they travel along the borders of their societies
and tell them to go and show themselves to the leaders of their communities.
Lord, our Church has made many people feel unclean
- because of their sexual orientation,
- because their marriages broke up;
- because they became pregnant out of wedlock;
- because they gave up the priesthood or religious life;
- because members of their families are in prison or on drugs.
Send them spiritual guides like Jesus who will see deeply into their condition
and tell them that they are not unclean, and can go with confidence
and show themselves to the priests.
Once they know this, they will be cleansed as they go their way.
Man is straighter when he bends and taller when he bows. GK Chesterton
Lord, one of the great sicknesses of our time
Is to have lost the art of giving thanks.
What a pity that so few people come back and give praise to you;
Like Jesus we wonder where are the others.
When we take your blessings for granted we lose energy and enthusiasm.
It is only when we know how to throw ourselves at the feet of those who help us
and give thanks
that we can really stand up with confidence and go our way.
“You must not infringe on the rights of the foreigner or the orphan.
Remember that you were once a slave in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from that.” Deuteronomy 24:17-18
Lord, help us to come to those in need
without the slightest trace of condescension,
not as chosen people but as Samaritans
who know what it is to be in need ourselves
and have had to throw ourselves at the feet of those who made us clean.
There are things that can only be seen by eyes that have cried.” Archbishop Christopher Munzihirwa, Jesuit  Rwandan bishop killed in the civil war
Lord, when we remember the pains we have suffered
we can stand up, like the Samaritan leper,
and follow the way of peace and reconciliation.
“We should look at green again and be startled anew, but not blinded, by blue and yellow and red. Fairy tales help us to make this rediscovery.”     J. R. Tolkien
Lord, give us the heart of a child,
So that we may know how to come back and give thanks to you
For the simple things in life.

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Homilies:

1. Fr. Charles Irvin:
 
 We are all quite conscious of the fact that only one of the cured lepers returned to give thanks to Jesus. And we are conscious, too, that the one returning was a Samaritan, one of those people despised by the pious and orthodox Jews of Jesus’s time. But have we given any thought at all to what happened to the other nine?
 
Well, what DID happen to them? Did their families receive them back into their homes or was there a lingering fear that they were still diseased and so they faced a frosty and unwelcome return home? Did their children recognize them? Did those who were cured experience greater devotion to God? Were they more consciously religious in how they lived their lives? Did any of them become followers of Christ and join the early Christians of their day?
 
We don’t know the answers to these questions. But we can have answers to a question I want to put to you now. My question is: What are the effects of ingratitude? What happens to us when we are ungrateful?
 
There are people who are simply ingrates; people who take, take, take… and never give. They would be startled to be told that we, all of us, need to give thanks. Giving thanks is far more important than we think; something much deeper than merely being polite. When we look closely at the lives of ungrateful people, people who take for granted everything that has been given them, people who give little or nothing to others, we see a progressive journey in stages into the hell of isolation, loneliness, and eventual bitterness.
 
In the first stage we find people who simply turn off others. The “turn off” has a double effect. On the one hand, being self-centered they pay scant attention to others. They are insensitive to the wants, needs, and feelings of others. They can be harsh and unaware that they treat others rudely. On the other hand they find that others around them shun them in return. They are simply not pleasant to be around. As the old truism goes, “You get what you give.” In this case if you give the cold shoulder to others you’ll get the same treatment in return.
 
The next thing to go is their sense of wonder. Ungrateful people expect everything to be perfect. They make their own lives and the lives of those around them miserable with their demands and their complaining. Ever notice that the word miser and the word miserable are interconnected? Miserly people, ungrateful and grasping people, are miserable people.
 
Descending deeper into hell we learn that people who have no gratitude in their souls never enjoy what they already have. Nothing gives them joy or happiness. Life, for them, is painted in shades of dull gray. They live colorless lives. They are boring, drab, and dreary. There’s no color in their character. You can see it in their vacant eyes.
 
In the next stage of our journey into the abyss of hell we find those who are never satisfied with anything they have and are never satisfied with anything others around them do. No one is good enough for them because they are no good for anyone else. Peace and contentment are driven from their hearts and souls. They’re always agitated, whining, and complaining. They become very disagreeable, argumentative, self-opinionated, self-important, self-righteous, and thoroughly self-centered. Jealously and competitiveness set in. They’re always comparing themselves with others particularly in terms of what they feel they are lacking. They ignore what they have, overlooking the good things that are theirs.
 
Then they become consumed with getting more. They simply must, they feel, have more and more things. The problem is the more they consume the less they are satisfied. Consequently they enter into a frantic rat-race to get acquire more and more money and more and more things. Their garages are littered with junk, full of their unused gadgets and other distractions.
 
The leprosy of envy is next, a leprosy that eats away at their souls. Jealously, envy, and anger at others consumes their hearts and souls like uncontrolled cancer.
 
God is forgotten. Did the other nine simply forget about the cures Christ gave them? We don’t know. None of us know all that was in or not in their hearts. But ungrateful people eventually end up forgetting about prayer, about worshipping at Mass, about the Sacraments, about their spiritual lives. Finally they forget about God. Forgetfulness, neglect of others, and ingratitude are all interrelated… they’re all members of the same family.
 
Blaming God comes next. The ungrateful blame God for not having all the things they want, for not being successful, for not being happy, and for anything and everything that’s wrong in their lives.
 
Finally, ungrateful people eventually fill their empty souls with self-pity. They become self-pitying whiners. The end up living in their own hell of loneliness and isolated bitterness.
 
The lesson we can learn from all of this is to realize that gratitude, giving thanks, and being thank-full people, changes us not God. We don’t give thanks in order to change God’s mind. The beatitude of thankfulness changes us; it changes our hearts, our outlook on life, and our relationships with others. It’s a truth that sets us free. Gratitude is the BE-attitude. It changes how we live. With it we find happiness.
 
The healing presence of Jesus Christ remains constant. God loves us with an unconditional love. God will never turn His back on us. He is always and forever present to us; He is always for us, giving us His presence, His power, and His love. Even when we feel alienated and estranged from Him, even when we feel He is distant and that we have lost the relationship we once had with Him, He remains present to us in His Holy Spirit.
 
For it is always our own thinking, our own feelings, and our own attitudes that keep us alien and distant from God. The separation is of our own making. But the quickest, the easiest, and the most effective way back to a close relationship with God is found in giving thanks. It is when we are filled with gratitude that we heal and restore the attitude that opens the floodgates of healing, that removes the cancerous leprosy that consumes us, and that restore us to wholeness, to healing, to health, and to holiness.
 
”Were not ten made whole?” Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?” To the one who gave thanks He said: “Go on your way, your faith has saved you.” These words of Christ Jesus are spoken not just to a Samaritan of 2,000 years ago. They are spoken to you and to me.
 
That is why we are here to celebrate Eucharist – our prayer of thanksgiving – so we can go on our ways, walking in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

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2. Fr Dwight Campbell

True Faith: Adoration and Thanksgiving
Purpose: Our readings today invite us to compare and contrast the response of people to God’s gifts and graces in their lives, and the invitation He extends to make an act of faith in Him.

In our first reading, we see faith elicited in the pagan Naaman, the Syrian, when he is healed from leprosy after plunging into the waters of the Jordan River seven times, at the command of the Prophet Elisha. Before entering into the Jordan, his faith is weak and uncertain. It is only after he is healed that Naaman makes an act of faith in the true God: “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” He then offers a gift to Elisha in thanksgiving, which the Prophet refuses.
The Fathers of the Church see in this miracle a prefiguring of the Gentiles being called to the faith, and being cleansed from their sins (signified outwardly by leprosy) through Baptism into the life of Christ, which will be offered to all peoples of all nations. Christ himself, we know, was baptized in the Jordan. The Holy Spirit descended upon him to signify the sanctification of our souls through baptism. The refusal by Elisha to accept the gift offered by Naaman shows that faith is itself a gift from God, a gift that, while requiring our freely-willed cooperation, cannot be earned.
In the Gospel, we see ten lepers who beg Jesus to be cured of their leprosy. Before curing them, Our Lord commands them to “Go show yourselves to the priests,” in order to fulfill the Mosaic prescript that lepers, who ordinarily must live apart from the community so as not to spread their dreaded disease, must obtain a certification from the priests that they have been cured in order to return to the community (Lev. 14:2 ff.). They obey, and on their way, they are healed. However, of the ten who were healed, only one returns to Jesus to give him thanks, and this one is a Samaritan, a “foreigner,” as Our Lord calls him.
How shall we interpret this event? We can say that the other nine were healed, but only bodily. The Samaritan, however, underwent a far more efficacious experience: a true, interior, spiritual healing due to his faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, which redounded to his salvation, as indicated by Our Lord’s words to him: “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Neither Christ, nor Saint Luke, speaks of the others as having faith or as being saved. Great has their miracle was, they were not promised salvation.
The Samaritan was assured of salvation by Our Lord, not merely because he returned and gave thanks. Rather, we are told that when he came back he “glorified God” and “fell at the feet of Jesus.” Another, perhaps better translation says that the Samaritan “fell on his face at the feet of Jesus” – an act of deep humility and total, unquestioning faith.
While it appears that the other nine lepers, who likely were all Jews, did believe Jesus somehow had power to work a miraculous cure, they did not put faith in him as the Son of God. Thus, they saw no reason to return and fall on their faces before his feet, adoring him as the Word made flesh, the longed-for Messiah who was to win salvation for souls, the One to whom they must submit the entirety of their hearts, minds and souls. Instead, they returned to their normal, worldly lives and business.
In light of these readings, we can ask ourselves: What is my response to Jesus Christ, and to the many gifts and graces God has granted to me? Do I follow the nine lepers, and go about my daily business without acknowledging that Jesus suffered and died for me, and paid the price for my sins? Or, am I like Naaman, and acknowledge God, profess belief in him, and pray to him only after having received some favor or benefit from him? Or, do I strive to be like the Samaritan and humbly throw myself at Our Lord’s feet every day, giving thanks for all he has granted to me? This alone is true faith.
The saints, of course, are our models in practicing a living, active faith. In fact, with many, the whole of their lives were acts of adoration and thanksgiving to God. And supreme among the saints in this regard was the Blessed Virgin Mary, the most perfect adorer of God and of her Son, Our Savior. Her life on earth was a pilgrimage of faith which, like her charity, grew and deepened, from her “Fiat” at the Annunciation when, through the power of the Holy Spirit, she conceived the Word made flesh; to her “Fiat” at the foot of the Cross when, with a heart filled with love for her Son and for all of us, she associated herself with Christ’s Sacrifice, freely offering him to the Father to redeem us from our sins.
Let us ask the Blessed Virgin, the Mediatrix of all the grace of Christ, and our Advocate with the Father, to pray for us that we may imitate the deep and unshakeable faith she exhibited during her earthly life, so as to become more perfect followers of her Son, and adorers of God, always giving thanks to him for all that he gives to us.
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3. Connections:

THE WORD:
The grateful Samaritan leper is another of the great saints of Luke’s Gospel.  Terrified communities would cast out lepers from their midst, leaving them to fend for themselves outside the gates of their cities.  This group of lepers included both Jews (Galileans) and Samaritans -- they are so desperate in their plight that the bitter animosity between Jew and Samaritan evaporates in their need to depend on one another.
In sending the lepers off to those who can legally verify a cure rather than curing them outright, Jesus puts the lepers’ faith to the test.  Only one -- one of those despised Samaritans -- realizes not only that he has been made clean but that he has been touched by God.  His return to Jesus to give thanks reflects the healing that has taken place within the leper's soul.  Faith is the recognition of the great love and compassion of God, a recognition that moves us to praise and acts of thanksgiving.
 
HOMILY POINTS:
Like the leper in today’s Gospel, we realize that we have been cured despite the “illnesses” we face, that our blessings far outweigh our struggles, that we have reason to rejoice and hope despite the sadness and anxieties we must cope with. 
There are still lepers among us, people we have consciously or unconsciously cast out of society’s gates by fear, mistrust and self-interest.  They are the lepers -- but we suffer the disease.
Faith begins with the practice of gratitude, gratitude that is grounded in the conviction that God has breathed his life into us for no other reason than love so deep we cannot begin to fathom it — and that the only fitting response we can make to such unexplainable and unmerited love is to stand humbly before God in quiet, humble gratitude. 
Gratitude is a perspective of seeing every human being as worthy of respect as a child of God; it is an attitude of simple humility before all men and woman, respecting them as our brothers and sisters, regardless of whatever differences in social status, age, or education.  Gratitude requires the humility both to give from our poverty and to receive despite our wealth and status.
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Illustrations:

1. The Seeds of Discouragement: 

An old legend tells how a man once stumbled upon a great red barn after wandering for days in a forest in the dark. He was seeking refuge from the howling winds of a storm. He entered the barn and his eyes grew accustomed to the dark. To his astonishment, he discovered that this was the barn where the devil kept his storehouse of seeds. They were the seeds that were sown in the hearts of humans. The man became curious and lit a match. He began exploring the piles of bins of seeds round him. He couldn't help but notice that the greatest majority of them said, "Seeds of Discouragement." 

About that time one of the devil's helpers arrived to pick up a load of seeds. The man asked him, "Why the abundance of discouragement seeds?" The helper laughed and replied, "Because they are so effective and they take root so quickly." "Do they grow everywhere?" the man asked. At that moment the devil's helper became very sullen. He glared at the man and in disgust he said, "No. They never seem to grow in the heart of a grateful person."

Keith Wagner, But Are We Grateful?
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2. Greg Anderson,
in Living Life on Purpose, tells a story about a man whose wife had left him. He was completely depressed. He had lost faith in himself, in other people, in God--he found no joy in living. One rainy morning this man went to a small neighborhood restaurant for breakfast. Although several people were at the diner, no one was speaking to anyone else. Our miserable friend hunched over the counter, stirring his coffee with a spoon. 

In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by almost shouting, "Momma, why don't we say our prayers here?" The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, "Sure, honey, we pray here. Will you say the prayer for us?" And she turned and looked at the rest of the people in the restaurant and said, "Bow your heads." Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down. The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, and said, "God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food. Amen.


That prayer changed the entire atmosphere. People began to talk with one another. The waitress said, "We should do that every morning." 
 

"All of a sudden," said our friend, "my whole frame of mind started to improve. From that little girl's example, I started to thank God for all that I did have and stop majoring in all that I didn't have. I started to be grateful."

We all understand and appreciate the importance of gratitude. How it can radically change relationships. In fact, one of the first things we were taught and that we teach our children is to express their gratitude. Someone gives them some candy and we say: "Now what do you say?" And the child learns from an early age the answer "Thank you." And certainly we all know as adults that we appreciate being thanked. Yet, when it comes to giving thanks to our heavenly father, we so often miss the mark.

And when it comes to giving our thanks to God, I don't suppose there is any story in the Bible that is so endearing to us, so timelessly appropriate, as the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. We have all heard the story many times, but like so many Bible stories, we never tire of it...

An old legend tells how a man once stumbled upon a great red barn after wandering for days in a forest in the dark. He was seeking refuge from the howling winds of a storm. He entered the barn and his eyes grew accustomed to the dark. To his astonishment, he discovered that this was the barn where the devil kept his storehouse of seeds. They were the seeds that were sown in the hearts of humans. The man became curious and lit a match. He began exploring the piles of bins of seeds round him. He couldn't help but notice that the greatest majority of them said, "Seeds of Discouragement." 

About that time one of the devil's helpers arrived to pick up a load of seeds. The man asked him, "Why the abundance of discouragement seeds?" The helper laughed and replied, "Because they are so effective and they take root so quickly." "Do they grow everywhere?" the man asked. At that moment the devil's helper became very sullen. He glared at the man and in disgust he said, "No. They never seem to grow in the heart of a grateful person."

Keith Wagner, But Are We Grateful?
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Nine Reasons They Did Not Return 

Why did only one man cleansed from leprosy return to thank Jesus? Someone has made a list of nine suggested reasons why the nine did not return: 

One waited to see if the cure was real. 
One waited to see if it would last. 
One said he would see Jesus later. 
One decided that he had never had leprosy in the first place. 
One said he would have gotten well anyway. 
One gave the glory to the priests. 
One said, "O, well, Jesus didn't really do anything." 
One said, "Any rabbi could have done it." 
One said, "I was already much improved." 

That's not surprising, is it? I doubt that more than ten percent of us are ever truly grateful to God. In fact, it often seems that the more we have, the less gratitude we feel.
 

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com

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Now Thank We All Our God 

You can even be thankful during the most difficult of circumstances in life. It's true! We see an especially inspiring example of a brave and thankful heart in the story behind one of the church's most popular hymns, "Now Thank We All Our God." This particularly hymn was written during the Thirty Years War in Germany, in the early 1600s. Its author was Martin Rinkart, a Lutheran pastor in the town of Eilenburg in Saxony. 

Now, Eilenburg was a walled city, so it became a haven for refugees seeking safety from the fighting. But soon, the city became too crowded and food was in short supply. Then, a famine hit and a terrible plague and Eilenburg became a giant morgue.

In one year alone, Pastor Rinkart conducted funerals for 4,500 people, including his own wife. The war dragged on; the suffering continued. Yet through it all, he never lost courage or faith and even during the darkest days of Eilenburg's agony, he was able to write this hymn: 

Now thank we all our God,
with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom the world rejoices
...[So] keep us in His grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills,
in this world and the next.

Even when he was waist deep in destruction, Pastor Rinkart was able to lift his sights to a higher plane. He kept his mind on God's love when the world was filled with hate. He kept his mind on God's promises of heaven when the earth was a living hell. Can we not do the same - we whose lives are almost trouble-free, compared with the man who wrote that hymn? 

Whom can you say "thank you" to? 

Erskine White, Together in Christ, CSS Publishing Company
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Overwhelmed by the Gift 

When did you first notice that some people are more thankful than others are? When I was a young father, I remember taking my little children out on Halloween to go "trick-or-treating." They were very young, perhaps three and five, and were appropriately costumed in garb which thrilled us as parents. As they toddled to the front doors, I stood back and watched. I noticed that after they bravely mustered their "trick or treat," and took the candy, they didn't say "thank you." It then became my mission to explain that after they received the candy, they should always say "thank you." 

After many attempts to encourage a grateful behavior pattern, in some frustration I came to understand that they were far more overwhelmed with the idea that when a door opens in the darkness two people with candy appear, than they were overwhelmed with the idea that they were being graced with an unwarranted gift. It dawned on me that gratitude needs a touchstone in the heart, a place or moment when someone recognizes that this didn't have to happen: What I am receiving is pure gift! I neither earned nor deserved this! Such an insight is too profound for little children on Halloween night-and perhaps for many of us on any night. 

David Zersen, What Is Grace Calling You to Be?

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Humor: Does Everyone Do That? 

The story is told of a farmer who went into town for a little breakfast. As his meal was set before him, he bowed his head and offered a silent prayer. The man at the next table derided him, "Hey, does everybody do that where you come from?" "No," said the farmer. "The pigs don't." 

Frank Lyman, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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The Old Farmer's Feelings 

Perhaps you have heard the story of the old farmer who, with his wife, was celebrating fifty years of married life. Life on a farm can be tough; commitment is required. And you have to be frugal. 

Their children gave them a party during which lots of friends congratulated the honored couple. They looked at old pictures, brought out old phonograph records. The fifty-year couple even danced a bit to the old, familiar music. When the party was over and all had gone home the happy couple found themselves alone. It was a tender moment. The old farmer, who was careful with his money and even more frugal with his words, felt moved to speak.
"You know, Ma, over these fifty years, sometimes I've loved you so much that I could hardly keep from telling you." She reached for a hankie, dabbed her eyes and said: "Thank ya', Pa." 
Why are we so reluctant to let others know how we feel? Why are we so stingy and so slow to speak words that others long to hear, so private in saying things that cry out to be said?al
To be sure, God's name is holy itself ...To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayers ...To be sure, the good and gracious will of God is done without our prayer ...To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer...
To be sure, to be sure, to be sure! God's gifts come to us despite our unfaithfulness and often without our prayers. Paul quotes an ancient Christian hymn in his second letter to Timothy: "If we are faithless, he remains faithful - for he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13)." Our faithlessness and ingratitude cannot make of God something that he is not. To be sure!
All of which brings us to the heart of today's gospel. Rudolph Bultmann is quite correct when he notes that the emphasis of Luke's story is not the miracle of 10 lepers cleansed, but rather the contrast of gratitude and ingratitude depicted on the same dramatic canvas. 
Luke draws the contrast all the more boldly when he notes that the man returning to give thanks was a Samaritan, a "foreigner." Always the master storyteller among the four evangelists, Luke, having already given us the story of the "Good Samaritan," now gives us the story of the "Thankful Samaritan." 
Theodore F. Schneider, United the King Comes, CSS Publishing Company
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The First Billionaire 
The very first person to reach the status of billionaire was a man who knew how to set goals and follow through. At the age of 23, he had become a millionaire, by the age of 50 a billionaire. Every decision, attitude, and relationship was tailored to create his personal power and wealth. But three years later at the age of 53 he became ill.
His entire body became racked with pain and he lost all the hair on his head. In complete agony, the world's only billionaire could buy anything he wanted, but he could only digest milk and crackers. An associate wrote, "He could not sleep, would not smile and nothing in life meant anything to him." 
His personal, highly skilled physicians predicted he would die within a year.
That year passed agonizingly slow. As he approached death he awoke one morning with the vague remembrances of a dream. He could barely recall the dream but knew it had something to do with not being able to take any of his successes with him into the next world. The man who could control the

Fro business world suddenly realized he was not in control of his own life. He was left with a choice...
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From Fr Tony Kadavil's Collection:


1:  "Then where’s his hat?" Winston Churchill loved to tell the story of the little boy who fell off a pier into deep ocean water. An older sailor, heedless of the great danger to himself, dove into the stormy water, struggled with the boy, and finally, exhausted, brought him to safety. Two days later the boy’s mother came with him to the same pier, seeking the sailor who rescued her son. Finding him, she asked, "You dove into the ocean to bring my boy out?" "I did," he replied. The mother quickly demanded, "Then where’s his hat?" In today’s gospel Jesus tells the story of nine ungrateful lepers. 

2: "I'm just so glad and thankful I can hear and see." Perhaps the most grateful person I've ever heard of was an old woman in an extended care hospital. She had some kind of wasting disease, her different powers fading away over the march of months. A student of mine happened to meet her on a coincidental visit. The student kept going back, drawn by the strange force of the woman's joy. Though she could no longer move her arms and legs, she would say, "I'm just so happy and grateful to God that I can move my neck." When she could no longer move her neck, she would say, "I'm just so glad and thankful I can hear and see." When the young student finally asked the old woman what would happen if she lost her sense of sound and sight, the gentle lady said, "I'll just be so grateful that you come to visit." (Rev. John Kavanaugh S. J.) 

 3: "Accept my sincere acknowledgments." James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, is known as the Father of the American Constitution.  Madison was known for his spotless character. In his old age, the venerable ex-President suffered from many diseases, took a variety of medicines and managed to live a long life.  An old friend from the adjoining county of Albemarle sent him a box of vegetable pills and begged to be informed whether they helped him.  In due time Madison replied as follows: "My dear friend, I thank you very much for the box of pills.  I have taken them all, and while I cannot say that I am better since taking them, it is quite possible that I might have been worse if I had not taken them, and so I beg you to accept my sincere acknowledgments."

4 Expressing our gratitude: In 1976 Louise Fletcher was awarded an Oscar for best actress for her role as Nurse Ratched in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She had given up acting for eleven years to raise her children before she won that role after five big-name actresses had turned it down. In accepting her Academy Award, Louise Fletcher did a very dramatic thing. With her voice breaking with emotion she faced a national television audience and said: “For my mother and my father, I want to say thank you for teaching me to have a dream. You are seeing my dream come true.” Louise Fletcher delivered the message in sign language at the same time, because both of her parents were deaf mutes and were watching from their home in Alabama. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds).
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From Connections:
The nine other stories
So where were the other nine lepers who had been healed?
One of the now-clean lepers went off to build a new life for himself.  He busied himself seeking work, a new place to live, putting down roots for himself and, maybe someday, a family.  Work, work, work became the driving force of his life.
But another one of the lepers was immediately overcome with fear and worry -- What do I do now?  I can no longer beg.  I must find work.  But I have no skills, I've never learned how to do anything.  Who will hire me?  How will I survive?  So worried and fearful was the once unclean leper for his future that he was paralyzed from doing anything and remained huddled at the gate.
Still another leper, realizing that he was now clean, wanted revenge on the many passers-by who laughed at him, ignored him, and inflicted so many cruelties and indignities on him because of his illness.  They will pay for what they did to me, he vowed.
But one of the lepers, finally freed from his sufferings, ran as far away from the place as he could.  All he wanted to do was forget his old life -- and everyone and everything about it.  He tried to make himself deaf to the cries of the suffering of others, but he could never run away far enough not to hear them.
And, of course, there was one leper who went out and celebrated -- and celebrated and celebrated.  His newfound joy lasted as long as the wine did.  Once the wine and the camaraderie that comes with it disappeared, he had to face a new life.  And he found himself completely lost and alone.
There was one leper who didn’t believe he was made clean.  Why would anyone -- least of all God -- want to do this for the likes of him?  There had to be catch.  So he just waited and waited for his leprosy to return.  In his own mind and spirit, he was never healed.
And so the nine lepers went their separate ways.  But without a sense of gratitude for the miracle they had experienced, the miracle didn’t last very long -- their fears, their angers, their repressions, their skepticism, their misplaced hopes and values just made them lepers all over again.
For no other reason than for love so deep we cannot begin to fathom it, God has breathed his life into us.  The only fitting response we can make is to stand humbly before God in quiet, humble thanks.  Such a sense of gratitude can transform cynicism and despair into optimism and hope and make whatever good we do experiences of grace.  But too often we let our obsessions with money and fame, our worries and fears, our disappointments and hurts overwhelm that spirit of gratitude.  Like the Samaritan who gives thanks for the miracle that has taken place, we, too, can be transformed by such joyful gratitude to God once we realize that, in Christ, we have been “made whole,” “made clean,” “restored” to completeness in his hope and love.