Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

09 October 2022

Appears in: Messages and Homilies

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

Homily

[2Kings 5:14-17; Psalm 98; 2Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17: 11-19]

We are installing an air exchange system in our Basilica. It is something we really need. Especially in the summer months the atmosphere can be very hot and stifling. We hope to diminish that by good air circulation. This has necessitated us moving downstairs for mass, above all for the safety of parishioners but also to allow space for the air exchange installation.

As we keep in mind the change we need above us, the Word of God today invites us to ponder the transformation needed within us. The sacred texts summon us to make space for an exchange not of air but attitude. This is more necessary than what is occurring upstairs, because without it we shall find ourselves in a very stifling atmosphere that suffocates hope.

Let’s begin with the figure of Naaman in the passage from the Second Book of Kings. His call is to exchange pride for humility. An army commander very high in rank, he is a very proud man. He contracts leprosy and is advised to go to the prophet Elisha in Israel for healing. To Naaman’s great indignation, Elisha does even go out of his house to greet him but instead sends a messenger with the command to wash in the humble Jordan river. He is enraged at what he takes as an affront to his dignity and at first refuses to do what Elisha commanded. But his servants eventually convince him to do what he is told. It is at this point that the passage we heard this morning begins. Naaman lets go of pride, humbles himself, washes in the Jordan river, and is healed of his leprosy.

Now let’s turn to the Gospel passage and the encounter between Jesus and some lepers. Here the call is to exchange desperation for faith. At the time of Jesus, lepers lived in profound desperation, devoid of hope, since there was no cure. Ten lepers, who learn that Jesus is in their village, cry out for mercy. Jesus tells them to go to the priests, that is, those who could examine them and declare them cleansed. They obey his command and are cleansed on the way. Jesus later confirms to the leper who returned that he and the others were saved by the obedience of faith, by the decision to believe in his Word and trust that he would do for them what they could not ever do for themselves.

When we allow these sacred texts to interrogate us, there emerges the realization that there is something of Naaman and the lepers in each of us. We experience the pride of Naaman in our hearts whenever we set up our own expectations of how God should be working in our lives, when we are affronted by a challenge to our presuppositions, or when we refuse help. The desperation of the lepers can reverberate in our own lives not only in the face of serious illness but also in any grave situation we are powerless to change. As this realization takes hold, we hear God’s Word call us to that attitude exchange by which pride gives way to humility and desperation yields to faith in order to experience the healing and new life that only Jesus can give.

They also summon us to gratitude. Naaman, a Syrian, praised the God of Israel as the one and only God and gave thanks for the gift of divine healing. The one leper who came back to Jesus did so glorifying God and thanking Jesus for the cleansing he had received. Speaking for myself, I fear that I am rather more like the nine lepers who failed to give thanks. Perhaps you feel the same. God is the giver of all good things. He has given us everything in the gift of His Son. Yet, it seems easy to take it all for granted and forget that we are entirely dependent on God for life and all that is within it. We live in accord with this truth by that attitude exchange in which self-reliance is replaced with thanksgiving.

In the church upstairs, scaffolding is installed. This allows the workers to ascend as needed for the installation of the air exchange system. The one “worker” who can bring about our needed attitude exchange is Jesus, who descended, as St Paul reminds us. Jesus, as man, descended from David, and, as Son of God, descended from heaven, all so that we might live with him forever. He continues to “descend” by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the refreshing breeze that moves out the hot air of pride, replaces the stifling atmosphere of desperation, and thus enables us to breathe deeply and peacefully with faith and gratitude.

By the agency of that same Spirit, Jesus “descends” yet again to be with us in the mystery of the Eucharist. This sacrament is the Church’s greatest act of thanksgiving to God for the gift of salvation in His Son, and for the many good things He continues to pour out upon us, His children. As we celebrate the mass on this Thanksgiving Weekend, may our communion with the Body and Blood of Christ bring about any needed attitude exchange within us, so that we can live faithfully and gratefully as disciples of the Lord.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

St. Joseph’s Basilica

October 9th, 2022