My niece, Therese, is now 5 years old. I doubt that she remembers a couple of years ago when she would watch, over and over again, the cartoon video of Dora the Explorer singing, "We did it!" She would stand in front of the TV and shake to the beat and repeat, "We did it! We did it! We did it!" Inevitably she would say, "I did it!" As Therese learned to do things on her own, she was proud of her own accomplishment. Whether it was going to the potty all on her own, putting toys away in the proper place, or doing things her mommy asked her to do, gradually she learned that there is satisfaction in doing things all on her own. But there is a lesson to be learned in repeating to ourselves, "We did it," instead of "I did it." If you really think about it, there is not a single thing that we can say honestly, "I did it." In some way someone has helped us. I had to remind everyone at mass last Sunday that it was not an accident that LSU won their football game on the Feast Day of Guardian Angels. (Oct. 2)
I was reminded of that when looking over what happened to the ten lepers in the Gospel today. Ten lepers pleaded with Jesus to cure them. Jesus instructed them to show themselves to a priest. And on their way to the priest, the lepers realized that they were cured of leprosy. Yet it occurred to only one leper to turn back and thank Jesus for that gift of the miracle. What separates that one leper from the rest of his companions? Gratitude. One leper turned back out of gratitude to Jesus. Why did the rest of his companions lack gratitude? It's because the nine companions said to themselves, "I did it! I brought the miracle onto myself." Their line of reasoning was, 'If I did it all on my own, why do I need to thank someone?' We can take that same attitude of the nine lepers.
This past season of Lent, I preached a homily on Confession. In the homily, I told my experience of conversion while watching a movie called, "Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima." In the movie, as the children saw the visions of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, my sleeping conscience woke up. I grabbed a legal pad and began to write down all my sins of the past which I presumed were forgiven without really even asking God for forgiveness. They were the sins of pride, anger, lust, gluttony, envy, laziness, and greed. And I filled several pages of the legal pad. That was back in 1996. Before that conversion experience, I lived my life saying to myself, "I did it all by myself." I was certainly an arrogant, prideful, lustful, gluttonous, and lazy young man. Sometimes folks who come into my confessional remind me of my old self. They say, "Father, it's been 20 years since my last confession. All I can remember is that I forgot to attend some Sunday masses and I could have been more patient with others. That's all." Usually I say to myself, "Ahhh, here before me is Paul Yi from 1996."
If we look back into our past, many of us can remember the moment when God touched us in a special way like the ten lepers. Did we turn back like that one leper to thank the Lord for touching our lives in a special way? Or like the nine lepers, did we just go about our business thinking that "I did it?" For many years I was like the nine lepers who were thankless for the kindness shown by God. In 2001, however, while I was in a small Croatian village named Medjugorje, I finally turned back to thank Jesus for the healing of the soul that he brought in me. Then He said to me, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you." Since then, he has taken me, once a dirty leper, as a disciple--as His priest. Just think what could happen to all of us if we turned around like that one leper to thank the Lord?