Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- 2 Kings 5:14-17
- 2 Timothy 2:8-13
- Luke 17:11-19
The background to today’s First Reading for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C-Cycle) begins at the opening of chapter five of Second Kings, where we find the subject of our story; a man named Naaman, who the text informs us is a great and mighty man of valor and is also a commander in the army of the king of Syria who he has won high favor with. Naaman had also leprosy. Upon hearing that there was a prophet in Samaria who could cure him, Naaman went and got permission from his king who gave him a letter to take to the king of Israel asking that king of cure his servant. In hopes that this favor is granted, Naaman also brought along with him silver, gold, and festal garments to give in thanksgiving for his cure, and in preparing this way, Naaman anticipated a miracle. He anticipated that God might bless him with a cure and was prepared to give thanksgiving and praise to God through the prophet who would heal him.
Now, when Naaman finally arrived at the house of the prophet Elisha with all of his horses and chariots, Elisha sent a messenger out to Naaman with strict instructions on what to do to be healed. He told him, “Go and wash in the Jordan River seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But this angered Naaman because he had a different idea of what his miracle would look like. He said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper.” But after some convincing, as the text says at Mass today, “Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean of his leprosy.” You see, Naaman thought that the prophet would have to do something big to heal him, but sometimes it is in those simple and seemingly unspectacular things where God reserves His greatest blessings. It is true, what is a big problem from us, is no problem at all for God if we just do what He tells us to do.
Afterward, Naaman repeatedly attempted to give to Elisha those gifts of silver and gold and festal garments that he had brought along with him, but the Prophet persisted in refusing such. Naaman then said, “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the LORD.”
In the Second Letter to Timothy 2:8-13, the Apostle Saint Paul shows us another side of what it means to give thanksgiving and praise to God. Whereas Naaman was ready to give honor and glory to God for what God might do for him, Saint Paul is teaching us to give the Lord our thanksgiving and praise for He has already done, is doing, and will do; that is, we give praise to God because God is trustworthy. Yes, there are some of you who only know how to be like Naaman; to give God thanks when there is evidence that God has done something miraculous for you, but you are silent when all God has done is give you another day to know Him, love Him, and serve Him. You are silent about praising God when you are suffering but loud about praising Him when you’ve been made well. Yet, what Paul is teaching Timothy is that is when we are suffering; when we are “even to the point of chains, like a criminal,” Paul says, we are still called to remember that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and He is the promised one from the seed of David. In saying this, Paul is reminding us that God is always faithful and always keeps His promises, even when we are unfaithful, “he remains faithful because he cannot deny himself.”
Whereas in Second Kings we read about how just one leper traveled to Samaria to be healed by the Prophet Elisha, now in today’s Gospel Reading we hear about ten lepers who Jesus encountered when He was traveling through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, these ten lepers met Him and stood at a distance from Him, because they were unclean according to the Jews and did not want to infect anyone, but they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed.” At this point, Jesus had done what Elisha had done. These lepers came to Him asking for healing, and were told to do something simple; they did it and were healed, but one of them, a Samaritan, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. Unlike Naaman, this man had nothing to offer, but a humble and contrite heart. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” All the man asked for was to be healed, but in turning back to give thanks to Christ Jesus, he was given more than he asked for; he was given salvation.
Together, the readings at the Holy Mass for this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time offers us a perfect image of the type of People of God who the liturgy is forming us to be.
In Naaman, we see ourselves. For, we too are lepers who have heard the good news of a cure for our sick condition and have journeyed to the altar of Christ Jesus’ sacrifice to be healed. Some of us have come like with a thanksgiving offering for the basket, but others have come with nothing but their contrite and humble hearts like the Samaritan in the Gospel Reading. In the first movement of the Divine Symphony, from the Penitential Rite through the Collect, we announce that we, like the Apostle Saint Paul, are suffering but confessing in the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Then after we have received the cure for our sickness, are we not like the Samaritan? Do we not return to our pews and fall down on our knees and give thanks to God in His Real Presence? Then in the final movement of the Divine Symphony, does not the Priest say what Christ said to the Samaritan? “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Or as the Priest acclaims, “Ite, Missa est” (“Go, you are dismissed”).
Truly, all of us are just lepers in search of the one who can heal us, and the one who comes as the Holy Eucharist to heal us wants more than just to make us well for this life. Rather, He desires to make us whole and holy for the life to come in eternity.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.