Homily by Father Paul

Usually when people tell stories, they make themselves the star and put themselves in the best possible light. This is not true for the Catholic Church.  Some of the greatest saints were among the worst sinners.  Saint Mary of Egypt and Saint Augustine are two examples from the late fourth and early fifth centuries.

Neither do Jewish stories-tellers shy away from showing their idols in a bad light.  Noah had a drinking problem.  Moses was a stutterer.  David committed adultery.  In the gospels we find unlikely standouts such as the Samaritan in today’s gospel, Zaccheus (a despised tax collector), the shunned Samaritan woman at the well.

Jews and Samaritans of Jesus’ day despised and generally avoided one another, The Israelites believed themselves to be special to God. After all, they were God’s chosen people.  Yet,  it was Namaan — a Syrian, enemy, foreigner, and unbeliever — who was healed by the prophet Elisha. There were just as many Jewish lepers in that time as in Jesus’ day.  Our readings today make it very clear that the love, grace, life, and salvation of God are not just for a few special people. These gifts are freely given to all who will accept them.

Of course, Saint Luke wants his readers to know that Jesus is the promised and long awaited Messiah. His miraculous deeds and powerful words make that clear. But miracle stories also teach us about discipleship — what it means to be a true and genuine follower of Jesus.  Here are three ideas to consider.

Disciples pray to Jesus for healing. We need cured from the spiritual sickness of sin.  If we do not deal with sin in our lives, sin will take over our lives just as cancer grows when left untreated.    Real Christians  pray for God’s help we call grace.

Disciples obey and do what God asks of us.  At that time, lepers had to be inspected by priests to prove they were cured.  When this happened, they would be welcomed back to family, friends, and society.  We can learn what Jesus asks of us by reading, reflecting on, and praying with the four gospels.

Finally, disciples give thanks to God for how we are truly blessed.  It is the unlikely Samaritan who Jesus points to as an example of gratitude. Here are some thoughts from Saint Augustine in giving thanks to God.  “What better words may we carry in our heart, pronounce with our mouth, write with a pen, than the words, ‘Thanks be to God’? There is no phrase that may be said so readily, that can be heard with greater joy, felt with more emotion or produced with greater effect.”

Take time this week to pray for healing from sin, to obey what God asks of us, and give thanks to God.