13 October 2013 – Twenty-eighth Sunday In Ordinary Time

THE SUNDAY GOSPEL:  TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

Luke 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.”

PASTOR’S REFLECTION by Father Mike Joly: TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

“Who punishes whom anyway?”

There is a curious yet unfortunate belief in many of the faithful that the bad things which happen to us happen because we deserve bad things. Remember Chapter 9 in St. John’s Gospel where the Pharisees question Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). This ill-informed and false doctrine goes on to assert that God is vengeful and does bad things to those who have done bad things. When this errant belief is held by so many people, it then appears to gain a truthful quality by the sheer pervasiveness of its acceptance. In this particular case, many people happen to be incorrect in their assertions. This doctrine is no more valid than to insist that good things happen to people who only do good things. Recall Jesus’ response to the Pharisees, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” (John 9:3).

Well, leprosy is a rather bad thing too. Actually, leprosy was a term used to include not only Hansen’s disease as we now define leprosy, but to include any number of contagious and fatal diseases. It was necessary that they be quarantined for the good of the village; yet, being isolated in this way can lend itself to the false conclusion of punishment from on high. The questions may leap-frog over, “Is God punishing me?” to the motive behind this certain penalty, “Why is God punishing me?”

God is NOT like us!  God does not do the things we do and think the things we think. “He makes the sun to rise on the bad and good”. (Matthew 5:45). God does not act as we often do, in a vengeful way. On the contrary, we ARE well when we do and think as God does. God is not punishing the afflicted. But we are the ones who punish ourselves when we act and think in a diseased way, in a leprous way, in a manner which isolates us from an intimate relationship with God. We quarantine ourselves amidst the sickly.

It is the new silent killer! Once nearly annihilated in its attack on the physical body, it has resurfaced in the 21st century with a vengeance to attack not the body, but the soul of modern society: spiritual leprosy. It is the disease of a heart closed off from God’s holiness and beauty and refreshment. Spiritual leprosy can be hidden easily under a colonel’s wings, under a soccer player’s uniform, under an attractive dress or hidden within the busyness of a world spinning faster and faster. It is far more fatal. Spiritual leprosy shows up with horrific symptoms. The most hideous of them, this leprosy suffers the “UNGRATITUDE” of a soul toward God and a refusal to receive His healing.

Ten lepers catch sight of Jesus from within their camp. With bells jingling around their necks to warn all to stay away, they cry out for healing, that the “punishment” be lifted. All ten are cleansed; all are made physically whole. But, ninety percent chose to stay sick and diseased on the inside; they chose to keep punishing themselves. These nine do not return to Jesus with thankful praise welling up as the neon sign indicating their health. This is their new leprosy! They punish themselves. No one else (certainly not God) is punishing them. They do it to themselves. Their lack of thankful praise continues their disease and their separation from the Lord. They quarantine themselves with the leprous of heart.

The one leper is healed through and through.  Physically, yes, but more importantly his spiritual disease of ungratefulness is vaccinated. God is not and has never been and will never be a vengeful, punishing God. He is, however, just! God will permit us to punish ourselves by choosing to be spiritually diseased. Rejecting His dominion and His reign over our lives is our self-punishment. Nine times out of ten we punish ourselves this way. One-hundred percent of the time we have the opportunity to return to Him in grateful praise, with a body and a soul lifted up as a man or woman of God.