Sunday Sermon for October 13, 2013, the Twenty-Eighth Sunday on Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: 2Ki 5:14-17; 2Tim 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19
In the second reading today St. Paul makes a statement that seems so simple and obvious, but in reality is very deep and profound. After he says that if we die with Jesus we shall also live with Him and if we persevere we shall also reign with Him, he then states that if we deny Jesus, He will deny us; if we are unfaithful, He will still remain faithful because He cannot deny Himself.
This fidelity of our Lord is the part that is so important and profound. Jesus told us that if we deny Him before men He will deny us before His Father in Heaven. But He is not going to change just because we have turned against Him in whatever manner. He has made promises to us and He will remain faithful to what He has promised. On one hand, this seems so obvious because He is God and, therefore, He cannot change. But on the other hand, to know that there is someone Who does not change, someone Who is a Rock, someone Who is always faithful is mind boggling to us.
We are so accustomed to people, ourselves included, who change with the wind. What is more, judging from the other two readings today and from our own experience, those who one might expect to be unmovable are often the ones who let us down. At the same time, they are the ones who are unmoved when they should be moved by the circumstances around them.
All we have to do is look at what is happening in the Church and in the world around us. When people do or say things that are offensive to God, we seem unfazed by it. If someone wanted to take our money, you can be guaranteed that we would move quickly to counter their effort. Yet we remain unmoved when souls are in danger due to sin or when God is blasphemed. We have become so hardened to sin that horrible offenses do not even cause a stir within us.
I continue to find it interesting that those who have never heard the Gospel before or have never been presented with the teachings of the Church catch fire when they hear the truth. They want to change their lives to live according to the teachings and example of our Lord. When people who have heard the Gospel since they were children hear it again today, it goes in one ear and out the other. Even if the readings or the homily directly address some area of their lives that needs to change, they pay no attention, they do not want to change, and they walk away unmoved.
Familiarity breeds contempt, the old saying goes. It is sad to think that we have become so “familiar” with the Lord that we have lost our reverence and respect in His presence and we ignore His words. We live in a situation where everyone seems to think they can make their own rules. What the Church teaches is okay if it is something that fits into their own predetermined ideas of how to live, but they are rejected outright if it is contrary to what they have decided to be right or wrong.
In our pride we do not allow the Church, and the Lord Whose teaching the Church presents, to form our consciences. We think that we have heard what the Church says and we will pick and choose what we want to believe. Not only is this contrary to what it means to be Catholic, it is just plain infidelity to Jesus. In my experience, this is not how most converts think and act, but it is all too common among “cradle Catholics.”
The converts, like the Samaritan leper, recognize what the Lord has done for them and they do not take Him for granted. Recall that our Lord spoke directly about Namaan the Syrian about whom we read in the first reading. He said there were many lepers in Israel at the time, but none were cured; only this pagan who then converted and would only worship the God of Israel.
While the people of Israel were unfaithful, this pagan demonstrated faith and faithfulness. While the nine Jewish lepers were not moved to thank God for their healing, the one Samaritan did recognize the necessity of returning to thank God. Thankfully there are those among us who will give God the proper reverence, glory, gratitude and worship. For the rest of us, we need to look honestly at ourselves and see how far we have strayed. We need to make some changes, knowing that God is faithful to His promises. We have not denied Him, but it is time to allow what seems obvious to become profound and strive for greater fidelity to the Lord.
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.