Sunday Sermon for October 9, 2022, the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: 2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Tim 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19
In the Gospel reading today, our Lord tells the Samaritan leper who returned to thank our Lord for healing him of his leprosy, that his faith saved him. In this context, the Lord asks where the other nine were because He knew they had been healed as well. This brings up in interesting question: did the faith of the nine save them?
Ten lepers were healed; we can assume all ten went to the priest to be declared clean of their leprosy. However, only one had the charity to return to the Lord to thank Him. Jesus can heal anyone at any time, even if the person has no faith. When we ask why God works miracles, it is because He is doing it for the spiritual good of the person who is the recipient of the miracle.
Therefore, in the case of the ten lepers, all ten would have been declared clean and all ten would have been restored to their homes and their families. This is wonderful for both the lepers and their families, but this is not the only reason for their healing. The miracle was worked for their spiritual good. In other words, the physical healing was accomplished in order to bring about a spiritual healing. They should be able to recognize that God intervened in their lives to turn them away from whatever was keeping them apart from God and lead them to a closer relationship with Him.
We do not know what occurred later on, but at least in the immediate time frame, it does not appear that the other nine lepers were touched spiritually. I am sure they were grateful for the healing that took place, and they obviously understood that it was God Who healed them because they came to Jesus, not knowing that He was God, but knowing He was “from God,” to beg the favor of being healed. So, our Lord’s words to the Samaritan take on even greater significance when seen in this light.
It reminds us of what St. Paul said in the second reading: even if we are unfaithful, God is still faithful because He cannot deny Himself. Recall our Lord’s teaching when He told us that our heavenly Father allows the sun to shine on the good and the bad; He allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. God remains faithful, He continues to love, He continues to serve us even when we ignore, reject, or deny Him.
If we were more observant, we would notice that miracles are taking place all around us all the time. Some people dismiss them because they can be explained scientifically; others ignore them because they do not want to be bothered with facing reality and opening their minds and hearts to the truth. They have decided either that God does not exist or that they do not need Him, so when He does something they remain unmoved and, consequently, ungrateful.
These people are less guilty, however, than those who do believe in God. How often does God do wonderful things, but we pay little or no attention. All too frequently, perhaps because we take Him for granted or perhaps due to being spiritually oblivious, we fail to thank Him. In such cases, we are like the nine lepers who receive the goodness of the Lord, but the words “Your faith has saved you” are not applied to us.
Contrast this with another non-Jewish person we hear about in the first reading. Naaman the Syrian is healed after doing what Elisha directed him to do. Notice that Naaman did not give Elisha the credit for healing him. It is true he returned to give Elisha a gift for his healing, but he gave the credit to God. He even asked for two mule loads of dirt to take back with him so he could worship the Lord on holy ground! Naaman recognized that his healing was miraculous, he understood that the Lord God of Israel worked this miracle, he declared that there was no other God except the Lord, and he changed his life to worship the Lord and offer sacrifice to Him.
Perhaps people who believe in God have become so accustomed to miracles that we don’t see them as a very big deal whereas these pagans were more “wowed” by the miracle that happened for them. Personally, I don’t believe this to be the case. Therefore, it is necessary for us who believe to examine our own selves and ask about how we respond to God’s actions in our lives. Are we grateful? Do we strive to love Him with our whole heart, soul, and strength? Will we be numbered among those to whom our Lord will say “Your faith has saved you?”
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.