Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday word, 13 Oct 2013

Following Jesus’ Lead
28th Sunday of the Year C (13 Oct 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Preachers often reflect on the gratitude of the foreigner, the Samaritan, in today’s gospel. The Samaritan leper returned and thanked Jesus for healing him. It’s an important focus: gratitude is essential to our Catholic identity and faith. Today I will reflect on Jesus’ response to the Samaritan: “Your faith has saved you.”

Today’s gospel directly follows last Sunday’s gospel selection. It began, you recall, with a request by the apostles, who asked Jesus, “Increase our faith.Their request implied they had little faith or needed help 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 wonder is not faith’s size: Jesus assured that its size does not make it effective. The wonder is a daily challenge: to give ourselves to faith, to follow its lead. We slowly 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 it depends on a habit. We entrust ourselves to faith this way: by pausing a few minutes each day to be mindful of the various ways God graces, blesses and draws near us; to savor each way; and express our gratitude to God for each. Savoring our blessings is this habit’s key. To cultivate this habit fosters and deepens our relationship with God.

A few minutes sound insignificant. Two jargon phrases art apt: 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 desire union with God and others; and overcome separation. Much separates us.

Illness separates us from others in more ways than physical contagion or inability to be with people. Illness affects our self-image and our attitude. A few examples are: self-conscious; lonesome; anxious; hypercritical of self and others; isolated; and confused. Things other than illness can affect us in those ways: failing a test at school; a poor evaluation at work; being misunderstood; and being the target of prejudice.

In Jesus’ culture people grew alarmed when fluids normally inside the body refused to stay inside and when the skin was no longer its usual color. Lepers shared both of those imbalances. Those imbalances frightened people; their fear led them to exclude anyone troubled that way.

In different ways we contend with exclusion all the time. We can be excluded, and we can exclude others. We may even feel God excludes us. 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 notice, a prayer we utter, a sacrament we receive: each can bear grace. Visits of grace free us to entrust ourselves to God. In those moments our faith saves us, as faith saved the lepers.

Grace is no thing. Grace is the life of our triune God. God dwells in us1 and creates us to share fully in God’s life.2 Pope Francis reminded that

God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow.3
His words vividly describe God’s mercy. Mercy is an outstanding feature of God drawing near.

God is in the lives of all, including those who need no physical healing. All of us need healing which leads us closer to being whole. A retreat team expressed becoming whole as “healing the purpose of [our lives].”4 Healing our lives and the purposes for which God creates us happens as we join with our Messiah Jesus and the purpose of his life. The faith of Jesus is the pattern for our faith. The pattern is marked by compassion and including others. 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 aware of the Trinity lovingly creating you with a purpose.
  • Ask the Samaritan leper to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him about your life. Hold back nothing. Ask Jesus for grace to recognize him visiting you in person in all manners of ways.
  • Name a way Jesus has helped heal the purpose of your life—drawn you closer to his purpose; savor it and resolve to act on it.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us live his faith. It helps us see more clearly that forgiveness is more than polite. It works Jesus’ healing transformation in us modern-day apostles. We continue his healing transformation each moment we risk taking his prayer’s lead both to ask for his compassionate mercy and to imitate it.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church #260.
  2. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 2.
  3. Interview given to Jesuit publications.
  4. Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Matthew Linn, Healing the Purpose of Your Life. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999. The slim book demonstrates that healing is more than physical. It also is God’s desire for us.
Wiki-image of Jesus healing 10 lepers public domain in the U.S. Wiki-image by A. Gundelach of summer flowers CC BY-SA 3.0.

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