October 9, 2022: Homily- 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sometimes when we listen to the readings at Mass we might feel that they are somewhat disconnected, that they don’t really “go together” in an obvious way.  And for the person preaching on such readings, coming up with a “theme” can be challenging.  And as many of you would probably attest, when a preacher tries to articulate a bunch of different ideas in one homily, it can be kind of a mess.  But today I don’t have to do any kind of mental gymnastics – because both the First Reading from Second Kings and the Gospel passage from St. Luke are talking about a common thing, a common theme . . .


I have always believed that a faithful heart is a grateful heart, that believing in, and being aware of, and appreciating the many ways God is good to us, is at the heart of discipleship, the heart of faithfulness, the heart of living a loving, God-centered life.

In our First Reading we see Naaman (a foreign army commander) thanking Elisha and praising the Israelite God for having been cured of his leprosy.  He even tries to give Elisha a gift (which he refuses).  And in the Gospel passage from St. Luke, one of ten lepers who were cured of their leprosy (a Samaritan) returns to Jesus to express his profound thanks.  Two men (both outside the Jewish community, and therefore, suspect in the eyes of the Israelites) each acknowledging and being grateful for the wonderful thing Elisha and Jesus had done for them.

But are the two stories really that similar?  Is the same thing going on in each?  I don’t think so.

In the first story it’s important to understand what precedes the passage we just heard.  Naaman was actually very skeptical of what Elisha could or could not do for him.  When he finally meets Elisha he is unimpressed, and storms off in anger.  He actually has to be persuaded to go back and give him the benefit of the doubt.

Conversely, the lepers in the Gospel passage, however, seem to have a much higher level of confidence in what Jesus can do for them, believe that Jesus can truly cure their leprosy. And if you think about it, those two narratives are not that much alike.  In the case of Naaman – it is the cure, the blessing he receives, that leads him to faith.  And in the Gospel passage from St. Luke, it is the faith of the lepers in Jesus (at least the authentic faith of the one who returns to give thanks) that brings about the cure, brings about the blessing.

A blessing . . . and then faith.     Faith . . . and then a blessing.

God’s grace moving in seemingly two different directions.  We might see this as kind of confusing, as not making much sense.  “Shouldn’t it be one or the other?” we might think.  Am I supposed to look for the ways God has ALREADY blessed me and then have more faith because of these blessings?  Or am I simply supposed to continue to be faithful no matter what, in the hope that something good will come out of it, that God will always have my back, that God will respond to my faith with some sort of blessing, some sort of grace down the road?  Which is it? Maybe it’s both.  Maybe these really aren’t two things in conflict with one another, but rather are two threads of the same garment – binding us to God in a stronger way, one that allows us to be wrapped more perfectly in his love and mercy and generosity.  By choosing both of these ways, it seems that God hopes to bring about a people of deeper faith AND a world overflowing with his blessings.  And he completely respects our freedom through all of it.

So often we put our own imaginary limits on how God acts, on the way things “work”.  Today’s readings challenge us to accept and be thankful for all the different ways God pours out his blessings, his very grace, his very life for the good of the world. God is free to act in ways we wouldn’t necessarily choose.  God is free to act in ways we don’t really understand.  God is free to use every good thing – sometimes even miracles – to bring about faith.  And God is free to “reward” authentic faith with blessings of his choice – countless good things that are brought about simply from people of faith trusting and hoping and surrendering to a mystery beyond their understanding.

God acts as God wants to act.  That’s just the way it is.  And that’s just the way it should be, because God’s way is always the best way as I said last weekend.  And so the challenge this day is for each of us to be grateful in at least two ways.

First, let’s be grateful for all the wonderful things our God has done for us, allowing these little “miracles” to strengthen our faith.  And secondly, let’s be sincerely grateful for the precious gift of faith –  and consequently, be truly grateful for all the good things God plans to do for us in the future, things that come about simply because we trust and hope that God CAN and WILL provide us with all that we need.  He just loves us that much.

“Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

May those words echo in our hearts and minds as we look for God’s blessings all around us and patiently await even more blessings in the days and years ahead, as we continue to walk the remarkable path of faith.

Father Boat

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