Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday word, 14 Oct 2007

28th Sunday of the Year C(14 Oct 2007) 2Kgs 5.14-17; Ps 98; 2Tm 2.8-13; Lk 17.11-19
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Taking the Risk

Preachers often take their cue from the gratitude the foreigner, the Samaritan, demonstrated in contrast with the nine lepers who demonstrated none. Gratitude is essential to our Catholic faith. I take my cue today from something else, from Jesus’ response to the Samaritan leper: “Your faith has saved you.”

Last Sunday’s gospel selection immediately preceded this cleansing of 10 lepers. Let me help you recall how it began: ...the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Their request implied they had little faith or didn’t know how to rely on it. Jesus encouraged: “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” The mustard seed is tiny. The great wonder is not faith’s size: Jesus’ saying assured us that its size did not make it effective. Rather, the wonder is the challenge to give ourselves to faith, to follow its lead. We don’t readily place ourselves in the service of anything: people we can see as well as faith which we cannot.

What does it take for people to entrust themselves? When it comes to faith, giving a few minutes each day to be mindful of the various ways God graces, blesses and draws near us, savoring each way and expressing our gratitude to God for each one fosters an encounter with God and deepens our relationship with God.

A few minutes sound so insignificant. To use two jargon phrases seriously: "Don’t knock it!" and "Just do it!" Faith is God’s gift to us; ours is to cultivate God’s gift: to live it; to seek union with God and others and overcome separation.

Illness separates us from others in more ways than physical contagion or inability to be with people. Illness affects our self-image as well as our attitude. When AIDS emerged in the 1980s, some physicians refused to be in the presence of people with AIDS. In the 1990s I remember visiting someone with an AIDS-related illness. As I visited, someone knocked on the patient’s door

We waited, but no one entered. A “Come in” did nothing. I opened the door to someone gowned and gloved holding the patient’s meal-tray. “Come in,” I said, opening the door so she could enter. She stood like a statue. Her eyes spoke her fear. I took the tray, smiling weakly.

The patient and I rolled our eyes. He was no stranger to frightened attitudes. Working in an Infectious Diseases section of a large city hospital taught me precautions are for patients; not signs to shun another. People with AIDS help us appreciate lepers, who were forced to live outside cities. Lepers had to cry out only to warn others, who might draw near to them without knowing it.

The ten lepers, like countless healthy people in Luke’s gospel, recognized their need to be healed and discerned that in Jesus God was personally visiting them. Lepers knew well they could only cry out to warn, but their faith, awakened by their condition and divine visitation, emboldened them to cry out for mercy. Mercy remains an outstanding feature of God drawing near.

Our burdens blind us to God’s mercy and constant presence. Imagine living with a personal burden, visible to others or invisible to all but oneself. Feel how your burden distorts your sense of self and your view of others and the world. Feel, too, how your burden alienates you from yourself as well as from other people and God. A moment, a person, a word we read, a sight we acknowledge, a prayer we utter, a sacrament we receive: each can bear grace. Visitations of grace free us to hand over ourselves to God. In that encounter our faith saves us, as faith saved the lepers.

Being saved may not be a physical healing. All of us need healing which makes us whole. A retreat team expressed becoming whole as “healing the purpose of [our lives].”/2/

Healing our lives and the purposes for which God created us happens as we join with our Messiah Jesus and the purpose of his life. The faith of Jesus is the pattern of our faith. Our fidelity to the pattern of Jesus’ faith and life saves us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week take a risk. Allow yourself to grow more aware of the Trinity loving and creating you with a purpose. Ask the Samaritan leper to present you to Jesus to converse with him about your life. Hold nothing back. Make silent space within you in order to notice Jesus responding to you. Ask Jesus for the grace to recognize him visiting you in person in all manners of ways. Name one way that Jesus has helped to heal the purpose of your life; and resolve to act on it. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer, which helps us see more clearly that AIDS-victims and people we keep on the margins of society model saving transformation for us modern-day apostles. Our saving transformation continues each moment we risk taking their lead to entrust ourselves to the mercy of Jesus.

/1/ Luke 4.27.

/2/ Dennis Linn, Seila Fabricant Linn and Matthew Linn, Healing the Purpose of Your Life. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist
Press, 1999. This slim book demonstrates that healing is both holistic as well as God’s desire.
Wiki-image of an alpine sunburst is used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license. Wiki-image of Christ the Redeemer is in the public domain. .

No comments: