(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Sunday 7:30am & 9:00am; Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5:30pm)
13 October 2013
(Readings: 2 Kings 5:14-17; Ps 98; 2 Tim 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19)
A week or so ago we celebrated the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. Just as Jesus meets lepers as he goes his way (as we hear in today’s Gospel) it was Saint Francis’ meeting with a leper that was a turning point in his conversion. Before his conversion, Francis was like most other people: lepers were people to be shunned. Their disease meant that they had a stench about them – the smell of rotting flesh – and St Francis was disgusted by lepers. But as his heart was turning to the Lord, one day when Francis saw a leper, he went up and embraced the man. He later wrote, “What had previously nauseated me was turned into sweetness of soul and body.” Interpreting this, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that on that day, Jesus healed Francis of his leprosy, that is, his pride.
The disease of leprosy is not something we’re likely to encounter, but there are any number of things that can leave people “like lepers” – isolated – illnesses, lifestyles, habits, addictions. Really, anyone we judge has become “a leper” to us. Like the unconverted St Francis, our pride can keep us at a safe distance. Perhaps we fear that if we get too close we’ll catch their “disease,” or be seen as “one of them.” If, in some form of superiority I think to myself that “I’m not that kind of person,” perhaps that betrays just what kind of person I am.
Saint Francis, after his conversion and in imitation of Jesus, reached out to all people, treating them with dignity and kindness. We can each ask ourselves: Who are lepers to me? Who is the Lord asking me to reach out to, to share God’s love, mercy and kindness with?
The other aspect of the Word of God today is that of giving thanks. We have the famous line: “I think, therefore I am.” In reflecting on today’s readings, we could say, “I thank, therefore I am a Christian.” It’s a profoundly Christian attitude to give thanks to God who is the source of everything we have, the origin of every good gift. Even those things that come to us from others, ultimately come to us through the providence of God’s grace. And so, to be truly godly, is to live in an attitude of constant thankfulness to God.
The Holy Eucharist that we celebrate week by week – day by day even – is literally the Holy Thanksgiving. In the Mass we enter into the actions of Jesus – we become one with him – in his mediation between God and man. We give thanks for what God has done for us through Jesus.
This is what the leper did when he returned to give thanks to Jesus. He wasn’t just thankful for his cure. But he was thankful to God who had worked this miracle of healing mercy; and he recognized this presence of God in Jesus; Jesus who is the face of God to us, revealing the Father’s love and mercy in a way that we can see and touch.
And so when we encounter Christ in the Mass: through his presence in the gathered community, in His Word, in the priest-celebrant acting in his person, and above all in his Eucharistic presence under the form and appearance of bread and wine – when we encounter Jesus in the Mass we too give thanks to God the Father for all that He has done and is doing for us.
This can be a reminder to us to be people of thanksgiving. To more consciously be grateful to the people in our lives, realizing that in thanking them we are actually thanking God. And as much as we petition God for things (which we should), we must also in a like manner give thanks to God: realizing that every good thing comes to us as a gift.
As we continue this Holy Thanksgiving, let’s call to mind some of the things that we want to give thanks to God for. And as we end every Mass with the words THANKS BE TO GOD, let’s take that attitude of thanksgiving to God with us in everything we do in the coming week.
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The Word Among Us, 2013.