Twenty – Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

 

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‘Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for God’s Guidance

Father in Heaven, You made me Your child and called me to walk in the Light of Christ. Free me from darkness and keep me in the Light of Your Truth. The Light of Jesus has scattered the darkness of hatred and sin. Called to that Light, I ask for Your guidance. Form my life in Your Truth, my heart in Your Love. Through the Holy Eucharist, give me the power of Your Grace that I may walk in the Light of Jesus and serve Him faithfully.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=712

COLLECT

May your grace, O Lord, we pray,

at all times go before us and follow after

and make us always determined

to carry out good works.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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2 Kgs 5:14-17

Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times

at the word of Elisha, the man of God.

His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child,

and he was clean of his leprosy.

Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God.

On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said,

“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth,

except in Israel.

Please accept a gift from your servant.”

Elisha replied, “As the LORD lives whom I serve, I will not take it;”

and despite Naaman’s urging, he still refused.

Naaman said: “If you will not accept,

please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth,

for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice

to any other god except to the LORD.”

APPLICATION

God miraculously cured Naaman of his leprosy, through the instrumentality of his prophet Elisha. This might seem strange to us, for this man was a pagan who adored false gods and came from a pagan land. That he would work miracles on behalf of his Chosen People, the children of Abraham, in the land of Canaan which he gave to them, we can easily understand. But why this favor for one who did not even know him or respect him?

God was the God of all peoples and all nations. He created them and he had planned heaven for them all. If he chose a certain people from among the nations of the world it does not mean that he had no interest in the others. If he revealed himself more fully and took a more active interest in the descendants of Abraham, he did this so that the salvation he had planned for all mankind, would come in due time to them all, as well as to his Chosen People.

In the meantime the pagan peoples who did not know the true God were able to honor him in their own way. If they followed their consciences and kept their local customs and practices, even though these customs included giving honor to idols, man-made gods, he could and did tolerate this error and read into their false worship their human intent to give honor to their Master, and true God.

The Chosen People had been given greater gifts, but God judged the pagan nations according to the gifts which he had given them. He judged the Jews according to the greater gifts he had given them. Both Jews and pagans were raised to the status of adopted sons of God, when the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, the Son of God, took place. Its effects were retroactive. Heaven was opened for all mankind on the resurrection day and those who had acted in conformity with their knowledge and their consciences, whether Jews or pagans, were admitted to God’s eternal mansions.

Does this mean that we need not or should not bring Christ’s message to those still living in paganism, whether they are in pagan lands or in lands which were once Christian? By no means. Firstly, because we have a command from Christ to preach his Gospel to all peoples and secondly, true love for God which any sincere Christian must have, should make him do all in his power to get all God’s children to know him and to love him.

Though the pagan can get assistance or grace directly from God if he is striving to live according to his lights, we who are Christians, and have the wonderful sources of grace which Christ left to his Church at our disposal, often find difficulty in living an upright life. How much more difficult for those poor people who have not the knowledge of God’s infinite love for man, or of the mystery of the Incarnation, and who have not the sacraments to assist them?

The Christian’s journey to heaven may be compared to that of a man who goes by train from New York to San Francisco. He has some restrictions placed on his freedom. He cannot get out and tarry at some town on the way. His night’s sleep may be disturbed by the shakings and rumblings of the speeding train. He has to be content with the food served by the dining car service. He has to associate with and put up with the talk and manners of his fellow-passengers. He is anxious above all, to get safely to San Francisco and if so he will count these difficulties as of very minor importance. The pagan’s journey is like the man who has to make the same journey on foot. He will get to San Francisco if he perseveres. He will get help on the way, but the going is hard. He can stop where he likes, he can avoid unpleasant company but nevertheless it will be a tiring and a trying journey. He would certainly be grateful to the true friend who would buy him a ticket so that he too could go by rail.

This we can do, and there are numerous ways open to us in which we can help our fellowman, still ignorant of God and of Christ. We can help to get them to know about God and about his plan for their eternal happiness. While staying on our train to heaven and while thanking God that he gave us our rail-ticket, let us help those who will otherwise have to make the journey on foot, if they are able. We can do so by example, by prayer and, if possible by alms.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done wondrous deeds;

his right hand has won victory for him,

his holy arm.

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

The LORD has made his salvation known:

in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.

He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness

toward the house of Israel.

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

All the ends of the earth have seen

the salvation by our God.

Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands:

break into song; sing praise.

READING II

 

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2 Tm 2:8-13

Beloved:

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David:

such is my gospel, for which I am suffering,

even to the point of chains, like a criminal.

But the word of God is not chained.

Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen,

so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus,

together with eternal glory.

This saying is trustworthy:

If we have died with him

we shall also live with him;

if we persevere

we shall also reign with him.

But if we deny him

he will deny us.

If we are unfaithful

he remains faithful,

for he cannot deny himself.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 437 To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”1 From the beginning he was “the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world”, conceived as “holy” in Mary’s virginal womb.2 God called Joseph to “take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, so that Jesus, “who is called Christ”, should be born of Joseph’s spouse into the messianic lineage of David.3

CCC 1010 Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”4 “The saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him.”5 What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already “died with Christ” sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ’s grace, physical death completes this “dying with Christ” and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act:

It is better for me to die in (eis) Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek – who died for us. Him it is I desire – who rose for us. I am on the point of giving birth. .. Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.6

CCC 1499 “By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ.”7

CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”8 Like the inspired writers of the New Testament, the first Christian communities read the Book of Psalms in a new way, singing in it the mystery of Christ. In the newness of the Spirit, they also composed hymns and canticles in the light of the unheard-of event that God accomplished in his Son: his Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of the Father.9 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.10

1 Lk 2:11.

2 Jn 10:36; cf. Lk 1:35.

3 Mt 1:20; cf. 1:16; Rom 1:1; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16.

4 Phil 1:21.

5 2 Tim 2:11.

6 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom.,6,1-2:Apostolic Fathers,II/2,217-220.

7 LG 11; cf. Jas 5:14-16; Rom 8:17; Col 1:24; 2 Tim 2:11-12; 1 Pet 4:13.

8 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.

9 Cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Tim 2:11-13.

10 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25.

APPLICATION

Timothy, a faithful follower of Christ and of his teacher, St. Paul, and a man who spent his life preaching the Christian faith, and finally gave his life for it. If he needed reminding of the essence of Christianity, how much more do we Christians of the twentieth century need this reminder. We too have died and risen to a new life with Christ in our baptism. In parenthesis. I hope the Church will bring back baptism by total immersion, it expressed so vividly the death of the natural man in imitation of Christ’s death and burial, and the rising up from the grave to a new supernatural life in and with Christ. However, this is exactly what the baptism received by all and which made us Christians, members of Christ’s mystical body, signified and actuated in us. We were made new men, raised to the supernatural status of sons of God, and set on the road to heaven, the eternal heritage which the Incarnation won for US.

How often during the weeks, months, years of our lives do we really think seriously of what being a Christian means to us? How many mornings in our lives as we dress and prepare for another day’s work do we remember that the coming twenty-four hours are bringing us another day nearer to our final examination on which all our eternity depends? It is not the work we do that makes any difference. It is the right intention with which we approach it and the honesty with which we carry it out.

The monk who from his vocation gives his day to prayer and spiritual exercises, but who gives it grudgingly and completely forgetting God who has registered twenty-four hours on the debit page of his life’s record. The bricklayer who had barely time to make a short morning offering, but who made it, and honestly spent his day laying one monotonous brick on another, doing so for the honor and glory of God, as part of his life’s task, has his twenty-four hours written in gold on his account book.

It is not our vocation in life, nor the occupation or place we hold in the society in which we live, that will assure or impede our success or failure in our final examination. It is the intention and the manner in which we carry out whatever role in life God has allotted to us. Shakespeare, a man of wisdom, says this world is a stage whereon each man must play his part. The success of any play depends on how each member of the cast plays his or her role. The little servant-maid who brings the coffee-tray to the queen or the star, and who does it properly with a true appreciation of her humble role, is as responsible for the play’s success as the queen or star may be.

We pass across the stage of this life only once. We have no rehearsals or no repeats. If we are sincere Christians, we know where we are going, we’ll go off the stage through the right door. God is infinitely merciful and pardons sins and mistakes again and again. The Christian who ignores the calls to repentance sent him so often in his lifetime, can hardly be surprised if he ignores the last and final call also, and finds himself unrepentant at God’s judgment seat.

Let us listen to the voice of God today. We have yet time to put things right, if up to now we have been neglectful in our duty as Christians. We died with Christ in baptism. We promised to live for and with him during our stay on this earth. He promised us a resurrection to an eternally happy life if we kept our word. Baptism has already put us on the right road to heaven. There are obstacles and difficulties scattered along that road but we are forewarned and therefore forearmed to face them. Paul, Timothy, Peter, Andrew and all the other thousands of saints who are today in heaven met the same obstacles which we have to meet and even greater ones. They were as human and as weak as we are. They won their battles–so can we. The same graces which God gave them he is only too glad to give us. All we need to do is to ask for them and then to use them.

Christ became man so that I could become a son of God. Christ died so that I might live eternally. Christ was raised from the dead and went to heaven to prepare a place for me there. I, too, shall rise from the dead and occupy that place which he has prepared for me, if I live my short life on earth as my Christian faith tells me I should live it.

GOSPEL

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Lk 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,

he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.

As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.

They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,

“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”

And when he saw them, he said,

“Go show yourselves to the priests.”

As they were going they were cleansed.

And one of them, realizing he had been healed,

returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;

and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.

He was a Samaritan.

Jesus said in reply,

“Ten were cleansed, were they not?

Where are the other nine?

Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;

your faith has saved you.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.1 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.2 Therefore his being put to bodily death3 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”4

1 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.

2 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.

3 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.

4 Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.

APPLICATION

This incident of the ten lepers happened as our Lord was on his way to Jerusalem, where he was to die on the cross so that we could live eternally. The Church brings it before our minds today, not so much to remind us of the mercy and kindness of Jesus to all classes, even the outcasts, as lepers were, as to make us see and be amazed at the depths of ingratitude to which men can sink.

This is but one of many such examples of ingratitude that occurred during Christ’s public ministry, most of those he miraculously cured forget to thank him. In today’s incident there was one, and he was the one least expected to do so, who had the decency to return and thank his benefactor. This pleased our Lord and led him to remark on the ingratitude of the others. “Were not all ten made whole, where are the other nine?”

He was surprised and also sad for their sakes, not for his own. They missed greater graces through this lack of appreciation and gratitude.

All ten showed great faith and confidence in Jesus’ power to heal. They had not heard him preach nor had they seen any of his miracles. They lived in isolation camps, yet they believed the reports they had heard. They all were very obedient too. They set off for Jerusalem to carry out the command of Jesus, even though their leprosy had not yet left them.

In all of this it was their own self-interest which came first in the minds of the nine Jews. Once they found their leprosy gone all they thought of was their own good fortune. Their Benefactor was quickly forgotten. The Samaritan’s first thought, on the other hand, was of the one who had healed him. He was as delighted as the others with his cure but being generous and thoughtful for others, he felt it his bounden duty to return and thank the man who had done him this miraculous good turn.

While we are ashamed of our fellow-men who were so ungrateful, and who treated the loving Jesus so shamefully, let us see if we have improved very much in our way of acting towards our Savior. Those Jewish lepers did not know that he was the Son of God who assumed human nature, became man, in order to raise us up to a new supernatural status. He gave them the gift of physical health for thirty, forty, or maybe sixty years more. We know that he has come to give us an eternal life–a life that will last forever, a life free from all troubles and worries “where all tears will be wiped away and death shall be no more.”

With this knowledge then of what Christ means to us, of what his Incarnation has won for us, of the eternal freedom from all sickness and death which his human life, death and resurrection have put at our disposal, how can any real Christian ever cease thanking him, could there be such a being as an ungrateful Christian ever on earth?

Unfortunately, there is not only one such ungrateful being, but there are millions of them. How many of us here present are numbered amongst these ungrateful ones? There are those of us who think of God only when we are in difficulties. While things are going well, when there is no sickness in the home, when our business is prospering, when there is peace all around us, how many times in the week do we say “thank you, God, you are very good to me.” When trouble strikes it is a different matter. We rush to church, we implore God to have pity on us, we make novenas to our special saints. This is not wrong. What is wrong, however, is that we forgot to thank God all the time that he was giving us spiritual and temporal favors.

Think for a moment. If those nine ungrateful lepers were struck again with disease some months later and returned to implore Christ for a cure, would you blame him if he refused? Most of us would refuse. Yet we expect him to listen to our urgent pleas the minute we make them, while we have not given him a thought and never said one “thank you, Lord,” while things were going well with us.

We all need to be more grateful to God every day of our lives–more grateful than we have been. He has not only given us life on this earth with its joys and its sorrows, but he has prepared for us a future life where there will be no admixture of sorrows. It is for that life that we are working. It is because there is a heaven after death that we are Christians. God has already done his part in preparing this heaven for us. He is assisting us daily to get there. We need a lot of that assistance and one of the surest ways of getting further benefits from God (as well as from men) is to show true gratitude for the benefits already received.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Making God Present in Society

We all ask ourselves what the Lord expects of us… There is a desire to reduce God to the private sphere, to a sentiment… As a result, everyone makes his or her own plan in life. But this vision, presented as though it were scientific, accepts as valid only what can be proven. With a God who is not available for immediate experimentation, this vision ends by also injuring society. The result is in fact that each one makes his own plan and in the end finds himself opposed to the other. As can be seen, this is definitely an unliveable situation. We must make God present again in our society. This is the first essential element: that God be once again present in our lives, that we do not live as though we were autonomous, authorized to invent what freedom and life are. We must realize that we are creatures, aware that there is a God who has created us and that living in accordance with his will is not dependence but a gift of love that makes us alive. Therefore, the first point is to know God, to know him better and better, to recognize that God is in my life, and that God has a place… The second point, therefore, is recognizing God who has shown us his face in Jesus, who suffered for us, who loved us to the point of dying, and thus overcame violence. It is necessary to make the living God present in our “own” lives first of all… a God only thought of, but a God who has shown himself, who has shown his being and his face. Only in this way do our lives become true, authentically human: hence, the criteria of true humanism emerge in society.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Praise to God (psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us and let Your face shed its light upon us. So will Your ways be known upon earth and all nations learn Your saving help.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

Let the nations be glad and exult for You rule the world with justice. With fairness You rule the peoples, You guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

The earth has yielded its fruit for God, our God, has blessed us. May God still give us His blessing till the ends of the earth revere Him.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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