See That We Are The Lepers
In Father Hanly’s homily for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, he asks us to see that we are the lepers and that Jesus wants us to know that he is ready when you make your way to him and you say, “Lord, have compassion, have pity on me, make me whole, make me the way God intended me to be.”
First Reading: Second Kings 5:14-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Second Reading: Second Timothy 2:8-13
Gospel: Luke 17:11-19
There’s an old saying that of all the terrible sins that we commit: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth, the worst sin is ingratitude.
Why would you say that? Because we were born to give thanks, reaching out to people, being grateful, loving the wonders of the world and sharing them with each other. And, of course, an ungrateful heart sours itself, hungers and can feed on nothing but its own selfishness.
Today’s gospel should not really upset us. It should make us feel quite happy.
First of all, lepers, the ten lepers that come close to Jesus. To be a leper meant to be a member of the walking dead. And this gospel is about healing, not about death.
And the lepers were so rejected that they had to wear little bells around their neck in case they forgot the chanting: “Get out my way, I’m a leper. Don’t come near, I’m a leper.” So their whole life was unbelievably sad: rejected, lost.
And, of course, when they heard of Jesus… Jesus was going through another town. Lepers were not allowed to enter towns. They saw him coming and they went towards him with their little bells banging and they said, “Jesus, Master, have compassion on us. Have pity on us.”
And what does Jesus do?
Jesus sends them to his Father’s house, the priest in the temple. And he sends them on their way. And on their way, while walking to their Father’s house, suddenly they were healed. And when they were healed, they were so happy they, I’m sure most of them, ran home, because they were forbidden to see their wives, their children and their families until they received the blessing of the priest in his Father’s house and they had been cured.
But one came back and they say, “Oh, this is just Mr Nice Fellow coming back and thanking Jesus.”
And Jesus looks at him and he says, “Weren’t there ten? Where are the other nine?” And I’m sure the Samaritan, who was a foreigner, felt quite proud of himself. And he should be, because he was the one with a grateful heart.
If you haven’t recognised yourself for what the gospel writer is trying to tell us this morning then you’re going to have to take a lesson in understanding St Luke.
If you’re going to pick yourself out in this picture, you’re not allowed to play Jesus. There’s only one Saviour. You’re not allowed to say, “Yes, if people come to me that are in need, then I will take care of them.”
We are the lepers. That’s what the writer wants us to understand.
What is a leper?
A leper is someone who was born for love, who was born to be a good citizen and to be a member of a community, and to bring joy and happiness to all that he met, because this is the way God made all of us.
But somehow, along the way, selfishness seems to gain sometimes the upper hand and we become selfish and small and narrow-minded.
And, of course, while we might be able to be accepted in society, we’re not doing society any favours. We’re not trying to bring peace and joy and happiness and wholeness to people. We’re worried about our jobs, our money, and this and that, whether or not people like us enough or don’t like us enough. And we always warn our children, “Don’t go around with strangers. Don’t do this, don’t do that.” This is natural. We live in a dangerous world.
But at the same time it is not what Jesus wants to give us.
He wants us, listen carefully now, he wants to be found. He wants us to know that he is ready when you make your way to him and you say, “Lord, have compassion, have pity on me, make me whole, make me the way God intended me to be.”
And then, of course, Jesus will say, “You will find peace. You will find strength. You will find courage. You will find all these things if you journey with me to my Father’s house.”
For the Jews, it was the temple. The temple was only a symbol of where God is present.
And that is what Jesus is saying, “If you want to be cured, if you want to feel the world the way it was created to be felt, full of joy and opportunity and, in time of hardship, in time even of death, to know that even death cannot stop us from our journey to our Father’s house.”
So today’s gospel is very simple: we are on a journey.
Where are we going?
To our Father’s house.
When will we get there?
Every time you look out and you see people around you and you say, instead of “How can I use them?” you say, “God, thank you for these people. God, thank you for the world which you’ve created. God, thank you.”
And then you must turn to the people and say, “I am grateful just to be with you. I am grateful for all the small things you did.”
When you were little children, your mother used to say, when your uncle gave you a present, what did she say? “Thank you!” Why did she say thank you? So you wouldn’t become a selfish little child.
I was raised in a sandbox. Do you know what a sandbox is? When your mother is putting the wash out, they used to have these wooden boxes for little children. And your mother would put you in the sandbox where there was sand. And she gave you a pail and she gave you a shovel and she said, “Now you sit here and play, and I’ll go over and hang the clothes,” you see.
So I’d be playing and then a mother would come with another child and they’d bring the child over to the sandbox, see. And they were going to put this child in my sandbox. And I would grab my shovel and I would wave it at him and I would say, “This is my sandbox, my sandbox” and I’d drive them away, you see. It’s natural. That’s why your mother used to say, “Say thank you, Denis.” And I said, “I don’t know why I have to say thank you.”
If you start saying thank you, you’re climbing out of your sandbox and you’re going to be led into different places and you’re not going to be afraid to share and you’re not going to be afraid to be with people.
Why? Because you’re walking with Jesus and he says, “Do not be afraid. This life was made for you. Nothing, nothing, can take it away from you.” For he has told us, nothing can take us away from the love of God – principalities, powers, wars, death even, cannot take us away from God who is the one who makes us (inaudible).
So think now when you go out into the streets. Nobody is a stranger. If you look at everybody as strangers and are threatening you, you’re still in the sandbox. You’ve got to get out of the sandbox and walk free.
And you will find, not only will your life change, but the world around you will change, because gratitude is such a great force that it strips all those who are afraid and hiding away, of all their fears.
And it makes them understand that this world was created for us, all of us, and the way we approach each other is: everything is a gift, a gift from God and a gift from others.
But the greatest gift is when we come to the Eucharist, which is a celebration of our thanksgiving, and we say to each other, “You and I are one, and one with God, and that is the heart of the matter.”