Tuesday, October 4, 2016

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Thank you.  It’s a phrase we hear and use every day.  It’s an accepted and expected courtesy for a variety of interactions.  In fact, when we don’t hear it when we expect to, we feel slighted and unappreciated.  Here’s a question:  Does God feel slighted and unappreciated when we don’t give him thanks for his great gifts?  Let’s see what this week’s readings might say on the subject…

2 Kings 5:14-17
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
2 Timothy 2:8-13
Luke 17:11-19

Our first reading comes from 2nd Kings.  Naaman, a Syrian military commander, seeks to thank Elisha for curing him of his leprosy (an act that King Joram of Israel isn’t likely to appreciate).  Not only does Naaman wish to give thanks to Elisha, but also to his God.  This is nothing short of a complete conversion for Naaman, who not only sees the glory of God, but recognizes the importance of the land in this covenant relationship.  In fact, his recognition of God’s covenant with the people and the land that he asks for two mule loads of dirt to take back to his homeland so that he may worship God on his holy land.  Naaman’s experience reveals some important lessons:  First, of the need to show gratitude and thanks.  Second, is both recognizing and giving honor to God.  Third, it is an example of a theme that is often played out in the story of the prophets… where a foreigner finds greater insight (and favor) with God than do his own chosen people.

All these themes are also reflected in our Gospel.  In another story that is unique to Luke’s Gospel (and a continuation from where we left off last week), we are told Jesus is traveling through Samaria and Galilee (the equivalent of the “outback”) on his way to Jerusalem when he happens upon ten lepers.  They ask Jesus to have pity on them, whereupon he tells them to go show themselves to the priest.  As they go on their way they are cured of their affliction.  When this happens, one of the men, a Samaritan, runs back to Jesus to thank him.  Once again, we see that it is the foreigner who demonstrates a faith stronger than the others, and is blessed for it.

In our second reading, we continue our study of the 2nd letter to Timothy, where an imprisoned Paul urging Timothy to persevere in his call to Christ.  The message is clear… stick with Christ, and you will be saved;  deny Christ, and he will deny you.  It’s a harsh testament.  Would Jesus really deny us?  That depends.  We recognize Jesus as our advocate, our champion to the Father, willing to forgive us our sins if we stray.  But if we were to completely turn our back to Christ, without remorse, our path to the dark side is clear.  It is also important to remember, however, that Paul’s words are meant to inspire us while shaking us out of our complacency, fear, or guilt.  After all, it is Paul himself who reminds us that even a sinner such as himself can be saved.

Final thoughts:
So… does God expect to be thanked?  Does he feel slighted when we don’t thank him?  Personally I like think that God is a “bigger man” than that.. far above such petty human vanity.  After all, this is the same ever-loving God who stands ready to forgive us whenever we turn to him.  At the same time I do believe that God appreciates our thanks.  Every loving relationship needs affirmation.  It goes beyond common courtesy, it expresses an appreciation for what one has done… whether something simple, or something extraordinary.  It is also a reflection of our humility… both when offering thanks, or being put in the position to accept someone else’s thanks.  Thanks, like love, must be freely given to be fully received.

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