Oct. 9, 2016: 28th Sunday Ordinary C
Click to hear Audio Homily
Those of you who do laundry know how difficult it is to remove some stains from white tee shirts. No matter what laundry detergent you use, some stains are so persistent that you can’t remove them. There is something similar to a deep stain that we experience in our lives. The word ‘stigma’ describes well such experiences. Stigma means a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. We may remember in our lives shame, disgrace, dishonor, humiliation, or bad reputation. How do you remove such stains?
The ten men in the gospel desperately wanted the stigma of leprosy eradicated from their lives. People avoided them and feared them, believing that they would contract the same disease. The pain and stink of their rotting flesh was a great suffering as well as a constant reminder of their shame. But the greatest suffering was their loneliness--being unloved and uncared for, even by their loved ones. When they saw Jesus, they cried out to him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Another translation of the bible says, “Jesus have mercy on us.”
Why did they ask for mercy first and not healing? These ten lepers knew they were in need of healing, not just physical, but spiritual healing as well. The word mercy literally means ‘sorrowful at heart.’ A merciful person shares in another’s misfortune and suffering as if it were his or her own. And such a person will do everything in his or her power to dispel that misery. They approached Jesus with contrition and faith because they believed that he could release the burden of guilt and suffering and make restoration of body and soul possible. They believed that Jesus was able to pardon them from their sins and release them from suffering of the mind, heart, and body. They believed that Jesus gave mercy to all who asked with faith and contrition. Do we approach Jesus the same way the lepers did, with contrition and faith? Do we strive to show how grateful we are for the mercy we receive from Jesus like the Samaritan leper who returned to Jesus reverently and gave praise to God?
If we do not recognize and appreciate the mercy and help shown to us we will be ungrateful and unkind toward others. Ingratitude is forgetfulness or a poor return for kindness received. Ingratitude easily leads to lack of charity and intolerance towards others, as well as to other vices, such as complaining, grumbling, discontentment, pride, and presumption. How often have we been ungrateful to our parents, teachers, and neighbors?
I recently watched a Youtube video that was a powerful demonstration of gratitude by a group of young people. It was an hour long play called ‘CREDO nella Misericordia’ (I believe in Mercy) about the life of Jesus. The play was performed by young men and women at Krakow World Youth Day to an audience of 20,000 teenagers. What made it a very moving experience for both the performers and the audience was knowing what the performers had overcome in their lives. Each of them were once alcohol or drug addicts whose lives spiraled out of control. They not only inflicted pain on their loved ones but also on themselves. Out of desperation, family members brought them to the Cenacolo rehabilitation community where the community of addicts helped each other recover from their addiction through the power of faith. Each performer on stage was a demonstration of the power of God’s mercy. Their presence on stage was a testimony of lives touched and transformed by Jesus. I could see on their faces the gratitude and the love they had toward Jesus for releasing them from suffering and giving them a new life.
Have we thought about how God has touched us and transformed us throughout our lives? Do we express gratitude to God for his abundant help and mercy towards us? We need to ask Our Lord to fill our hearts with compassion and thanksgiving, and to free us from ingratitude and discontentment. And we need to ask ourselves, “Are we gracious, kind, and merciful towards our neighbor in their time of need and support?”
(Fast forward to 51 min for the play "Credo")