Thank you. Thanks. Thanks for everything.
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 9, 2022
We hear that the Samaritan leper fell the feet of Jesus and thanked him. Thank you. Thanks. Thanks for everything. We use the word thanks quite a bit, don’t we? But how often are we intentional and sincere in our thanks. It’s so easy just to say the word. How often do we really stop and give thanks. It’s a good question for us, especially in light of what giving thanks means in the scriptures. See in the Bible, to give thanks means to state publicly, that at this moment God is at work and to do so as an act of worship. So, let’s say that again. To give thanks in the scriptures means to state publicly that at this moment God is at work, he’s doing something, and to do so as an act of worship. That’s a very deep meaning. To be able to witness the God is at work and to worship him in thanks for what he is doing.
And in this Sunday scriptures we have three examples of giving thanks right out of the Bible. We have our first one from our first reading, the second book of Kings, when Naaman, the Syrian, comes to Elisha the prophet seeking a cure for his leprosy. Naaman had a very responsible position in the Kingdom of Syria, and he was given permission by the king to go and see this holy man among the Israelites, this prophet Elisha, who was known to do mighty deeds and to seek a cure for himself. He had given his king such great service that the king was happy to try to help him. So, we hear that he comes to Elisha. He asks for the gift. Part of the story is he doesn’t quite want to do what the prophet tells him to right away, go down to the river and wash seven times, but in the end he obeys and as he does that and he’s cleansed. He’s cured. And he returns to Elisha and offers a gift in thanks and publicly states, “now I know there is no God except in Israel.”
See how this meets our definition, he’s making a public declaration as a non-Israelite, that God has been at work and has done something great for him. He is deeply thankful, and he makes the statement that now he understands there’s no other true God but the one in Israel. And if you’re paying attention to the story, you know he asks for two mule loads of ground to take back with him to Syria so that he can worship the true and living God now, and not stand on other soil as he gives thanks. So Naaman is cured, and he comes to faith. He sees God as real in his life and recognizes him.
In Psalm 98, our responsorial psalm this Sunday, a psalm written to be sung in public celebration of God’s mighty acts both in the creation and in the exodus. The church puts on our lips that public statement of thanks.
And in the Gospel, we have the cleansing of the ten lepers. Jesus is continuing his journey to Jerusalem. I mentioned this several times over the last few months. He turns to Jerusalem, he heads south, from his early ministry going to the holy city and he brings his first disciples with him on this pilgrimage to complete his saving work by going to the cross for us. He’s going to defeat our worst enemy sin by taking all human sin unto himself. As he makes this journey, it’s a significant part of Luke’s Gospel, he takes his first disciples with him, teaching them lessons, and the church intentionally has us join them in liturgy on Sundays in this year to learn those same lesson. So, this is about faith and giving thanks this Sunday.
Ten lepers cry out as they see Jesus passing by for healing and Jesus tells them, “go show yourself to the priest.”
And on the way there they realize they’ve been cleansed. But only one of them returns to give thanks. A Samaritan. Jesus recognizes his public act of thanks, that God has done something for him and gives him another greater gift. He gives him the gift of faith or salvation. He says your faith has saved you. His gratitude has opened him up to God and he’s publicly declared that Jesus has given him this great cleansing. It’s such a great gift. And he goes even further and comes to belief in him.
Literally the Eucharist means in Greek thanks, thanksgiving. You and I are right now are in the midst of the churches most profound public acknowledgement of God’s action in our lives. Both individually and collectively. Our thanks in the Mass, is also our deepest and most powerful act of worship. Right now, we are saying thank you for all that God has done, reaching back to his healing of Naaman the Syrian and the 10 lepers. If you and I realize that we too have been healed, deeply, by coming to know Jesus Christ. If we choose to open our hearts to the living God, to open our minds to him more completely to the way he’s at work in our lives here and now in this Mass, he can more profoundly draw us into salvation and eternal life and the healing can continue. So let us fall at the feet of Jesus in this Mass and thank him.