Browsing Homilies

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Kgs 5:14-17 | Ps 98 | 2 Tm 2:8-13 | Lk 17:11-19

All is gift, all is grace: a difficult concept in an age when everyone feels entitled to everything.

Often, as children, we might be fortunate enough to understand early on what a gift is. But, grace? What is grace? I remember it being a question on a worksheet in second grade C.C.D. I knew we prayed the word “grace” in the Hail Mary, so I knew it was something good; and so that’s what I wrote: “Grace is something that can be nice.” (Returned to me, circled in red, see me). In her own way, and at my level, my teacher explained that grace is a “favor,” a “free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become his adopted children, and that grace is a “participation in the life of God” (CCC, 1996-1997). From then on, when I prayed the Hail Mary, I understood the angel was really saying, “Hail Mary, you fully participate in the life of God.” When we were baptized, our God took up residence in us. This demands a response of gratitude, and we do that by the way we live our lives.

Our readings today reflect on the free gift of grace that is offered to those who seek and acknowledge the goodness of the Lord.

To begin, we have Naaman who plunges himself seven times into the Jordan River. We are witnessing the act of a desperate man. He has nowhere else to turn. Leprosy was an incurable disease that isolated the person infected from family and community, as it was a highly contagious disease. To get it was either a death sentence, or a life of total isolation from family and community. The command of Elisha, it was Naaman’s last hope. We can only imagine the joy that filled Naaman’s heart as he rose out of the water and discovered he had been made clean!

His response: he makes a profession of faith before Elisha. “Now I know,” he says, “that there is no God in all the earth except the God of Israel.” He wants to acknowledge this God who healed him and offer a gift in gratitude. Elisha knew that he was simply God’s instrument and felt he didn’t deserve to receive anything in return, just as God’s unconditional love and mercy come without cost: freely given to be freely received.

Paired with this weekend’s gospel, once more we see what gratitude and humility look like, realizing that not everyone is humble enough to express their gratitude for blessings received. When the ten lepers are healed, only one returns to thank Jesus, and that one is a foreigner, a Samaritan. Now, at that time, there was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans. But this Samaritan knows beyond a doubt that he has received a precious gift and returns to express his undying gratitude for having been healed, even though the healing was received at the hand of a perceived enemy.

All that our God asks of us is to acknowledge His love, His forgiveness, and His faithfulness, to humbly bear witness to the generosity of His love. God simply wants us to return to the place where we first met Him with hearts filled with gratitude and love, and then to operate out of a sense of that gratitude and love.

Gratitude enriches us, and it opens us to experience the bounty of God and others. It forces us to remember, too, that our God has not only taken up residence in us, but in our neighbor. Could we remember that better the next time someone bothers us, annoys us, wrongs us, thinks and lives and votes differently from us? God is after them, just as much as He is after us! That should make us grateful.

And the more we become grateful people, the more we will find that for which to be grateful; and very shortly, recognize quick enough that all is gift, all is grace, and that you and I –we’re entitled to nothing.


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