28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Both the first reading (2 Kings 5:14-17) and the gospel (Lk 17:11-19) this week tell of miraculous healings.
Naaman is healed of his leprosy by bathing in the River Jordan, following the instructions of the prophet Elisha. His immediate desire is to offer thanks. He wants to give Elisha a gift, but Elisha refuses. It was not him who effected the healing, after all, but God. So Naaman turns to God in thanksgiving, vowing to no longer serve any God except for the Lord.
In our gospel reading, ten lepers ask Jesus to heal them, and all ten were healed. But only one, a Samaritan, returns to offer thanks. Jesus remarks, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then He tells the Samaritan, "Your faith has saved you." The other nine had enough faith to ask for healing. But only the Samaritan followed through with gratitude.
This should prompt us to think about all the good things in life we have from God. Are we grateful for them? Do we let Him know? Maybe you have experienced a physical healing like the lepers in these accounts. Maybe you have experienced spiritual healing from sin. All of us have been given the gift of life. If we stop to think just for a moment, there is so much we ought to be thankful for: our families, our friends, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the ground we walk on. Our blessings are without number.
But not everyone has family. Not everyone has friends. Not everyone has food to eat. Despite our many blessings, each of us also experiences hardship. Each of us experiences suffering. If we look at the second reading this Sunday (2 Timothy 2:8-13), St. Paul indicates that, as Christians, we should expect to suffer. He writes about the fact that he suffers "as a criminal" for the sake of the gospel. He writes of the need to die with Christ in order to live with Christ. Should we thank God even in the midst of hardship?
The key, I believe, is found in the Alleluia verse before the gospel for this Mass. It is taken from another of St. Paul's letters (1 Thess 5:18). "In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus."
The will of God is always for your good. The will of God is for you to become a saint. The will of God is for your salvation, so God directs all things in your life toward that end. In that sense, everything that happens to you -- even those things which you perceive as suffering and hardship -- are occasions of healing in Christ. By uniting your suffering to His, you can die with Christ so that you might live with Christ. For that opportunity to die with Christ, you can and should give thanks.
Lest we forget, on the very night before He was to suffer His great passion and death, Jesus took bread and wine, offered it to the Father, and gave thanks. The word in Greek for "thanksgiving" is Eucharist. Each and every time we celebrate the Eucharist, it is an offering of thanksgiving to the Father for the suffering, death, and resurrection of His Son.
As Christians, we are a Eucharistic people, a people of thanks. Let us seek, like St. Paul, to give thanks to God in all circumstances of our lives, and to experience the healing offered to us through the will of God in Christ Jesus. Amen.