One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

October 14, 2007

For the Twenty-Eighth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Luke 17:11-19

It must have been a horrifying spectacle to see ten lepers hobbling or even dragging their disfigured bodies down the road in search of the priests.
I have seen lepers, and have been overcome with both morbid curiosity and revulsion to see the stubs of their limbs, and the empty wounds where their noses, lips or ears used to be.
Today in the Gospel it must have been an even greater spectacle to see the miracle of ten disfigured bodies suddenly made whole again.
Today in the Gospel, we witness ten lepers desperately begging for mercy and help. In so doing, they meet God on a country road and receive a real miracle.
The Gospel does not tell us why nine of the lepers did not return together with their tenth companion to thank Jesus.
When those other nine lepers found the priests, as Jesus had instructed them, surely they willingly offered the thanksgiving sacrifices required for public recognition of their healing.
It is most likely that the one leper who returned to thank Jesus later rejoined the other nine lepers in the presence of the priests, for the law required him to present himself to the priests in order to have his quarantine publicly lifted and to fulfill the obligation to give thanks to God in a formal ceremony of worship.
Jesus knew all this, for these requirements were normal and were prescribed by Scripture.
That is why when the ten lepers cry out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” he simply tells them to observe the law, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”
We are not too surprised by the indignation of Jesus when only one of the ten lepers returns to thank him.
Yet there is something in his reaction that should have made his listeners uncomfortable.
As the healed leper threw himself face down at the feet of JESUS, Jesus suddenly dares to speak for God, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to GOD?”
Jesus dared to speak as God on many occasions.
He also dared to forgive sins as God.
He claimed that his power to heal, to perform miracles and exorcisms was God’s power.
Indeed for daring to accept the title “Son of God” he was condemned to death by the court of Israel’s high priest.
Today in the Gospel we are witnesses of ten lepers who met the Son of God their savior and healer in a country village.
One of those healed lepers— a foreigner to Jesus— provides us with a sincere example of that attitude that is at the center of genuine religion and brings great dignity to human life: gratitude.
Furthermore, the gratitude of this healed Samaritan leper becomes the occasion of Jesus implicitly asserting his own divine dignity.
You are here in this church today to follow the example of a healed foreign leper, who threw himself face down at the feet of Jesus our Lord and God to give him thanks for mercy and healing and for much more.
With the Father and the Spirit the Son of God has created us.
We must give thanks, for God does not need us at all, but yet has chosen to have us live in the mystery of his freedom and love.
When we were fallen away from God, lost to him and to ourselves in sin, he came in our mortal nature, in our flesh and blood, to carry the personal dignity of God into the depths of human poverty even unto death.
The one who rose from the dead was indeed the same eternal Son of God, but together with him in his resurrection our human nature and our bodies as well are now seated in dignity at the right hand of God.
We have more reason than the Samaritan leper to fall on our faces at the feet of Jesus.
By feeding us in the Eucharist with his own flesh and blood, what else does he bestow on us, if not his own resurrection, and his own dignity?
Of this, again, we are not worthy, but in the Eucharist he speaks the word and we are healed.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
The original, literal meaning of the word “Eucharist” is “gratitude”.
God gains nothing from our gratitude.
It is we who benefit, for gratitude conforms us to the Son of God in his love for the Father.
It is we who benefit from gratitude given to God.
Scripture and the other traditions of our faith make clear all for which we should be grateful: for creation and life, for mercy, for redemption, for salvation, and for the gift of holiness in which God bestows upon us a share in his own dignity.
The Lord tells us in his Gospel today, “Go ... your faith has saved you”— in body, in spirit and in dignity.
By remembering always our debt of gratitude, in private as well as in public, we can keep our culture, our faith and our religion healthy.
Yet even should we forget, God will not, for he cannot be unfaithful to himself.
Thanks be to God!

That God Be Glorified in All


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