Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Wednesday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
November 13, 2013
Wis 6:1-11, Ps 82, Lk 17:11-19
To listen to an audio version of today’s homily, please click here:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- In the scene in today’s Gospel, we encounter the one grateful leper. Jesus stresses that he was a Samaritan, a foreigner, basically to highlight that the Jews he had healed of leprosy hadn’t returned to thank God. Even though the Jews had so many psalms of Thanksgiving that they were regularly praying that should have made returning to thank Jesus for the miracle, none had returned. It leads us to the question as to why it was only the Samaritan who returned to express gratitude. Was it simply a question of geography? I doubt it. Was it a question of worshipping on Mt. Gerizim instead of at the temple in Jerusalem? Surely not. I think it was because many of the Jews were terrible complainers — we see it throughout the history of the Jews in the desert how they complained about food much more than they thanked God for their liberation from Egypt and so many other miracles God had worked for them — whereas at least this one Samaritan was a person who probably grateful in general. The nine who didn’t return to say thanks were likely generally ingrates whereas the one who did was probably someone prone to say thanks.
- There’s a very important dialogue of prayer that takes place in the heart of every Mass that we should ponder as to how it impacts our life. Far greater as a hymn of thanksgiving to God than the Psalms we pray together with the Jews is the Mass and in the middle of Mass, at the Preface Dialogue, the priest prays, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” and everyone responds, “It is right and just.” The priest then turns to God the Father and declares, “It is right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks!” It’s not only our duty — and it is a duty for us to thank the Lord who has given us life and every other blessing — but it’s also our salvation. Just as the grateful Samaritan leper today received upon his return a far greater miracle than the cure of leprosy — when Jesus told him, “Your faith has saved you” — so when we thank the Lord we are likewise introduced into the mystery of salvation by faith. But we need to be grateful to receive it, because it’s only those who are grateful who can appreciate the unmerited uber-miracle of salvation. The priest also prays, “always and everywhere.” We are called to thank the Lord at all times and in every place, in the humanly happy times of births and weddings and successes, as well as in the humanly difficult times of suffering, death and failure. I like to think that the reason why the Samaritan leper returned to say thanks is because he was thanking the Lord always and everywhere, including during his leprosy, and perhaps even because of his leprosy, since that disease had brought him to confide far more in the Lord for a cure.
- For us as Catholics, it’s essential that we learn how to thank the Lord always and everywhere as a sweet duty that leads us more securely to salvation. Like the Jews in the desert, we can often be complainers, who obsess about what we don’t have rather than grateful thank God for what we do. We can be eaten alive by envy such that even when those we love are blessed, we can be upset about it, because we personally don’t have those same blessings. If we’re not thanking the Lord always and everywhere, however, we will often not thank him sufficiently when he does something truly spectacular for us. Like children, we may say a “quick word of thanks,” but then not really remain in a perpetual attitude of gratitude. That’s what we’re called to be as Christians, people who are constantly thanking God for the gift of our faith, of Creation, of Redemption, of his Son in the Sacraments, of the ability to pray, of the opportunities for us to love others, of the promise of heaven, of our family members, of our fellow Christians, of our Pope, and so many other things.
- We become a person who thanks God always and everywhere — and learns how to thank others too! — in our prayer. Many think that some people are born naturally bubbly and grateful and that others are born with bad digestion such that they’re regularly complaining. Others say certain cultures are more expressively grateful and others are more stern and moaning. It’s not principally a thing of temperament or culture, however. I think it begins with our prayer. In our prayer, do we spend the majority of our time praising and thanking God, or do we spend it begging for mercy, or do we spend it asking for things for others or ourselves, or do we spend it whining? The majority of our time in prayer should be in praise and thanksgiving if we’re every going to be able to thank God always and everywhere. That’s a habit we can form. It’s a habit I’ve needed to form over many years, where we count our blessings and thank God for each of them. The more we do so, the more we see these blessings, and the more we acquire that attitude of gratitude that is essential for someone who is fully Catholic.
- Today in the Book of Wisdom, God tells us that he holds to a greater responsibility those to whom he has given more. He reminds kings and magistrates that he will hold them to a more “rigorous scrutiny,” and so challenges them to desire and long for his words, be instructed in them, and keep holy his precepts in order to become holy. Likewise for us, who have received the greatest blessings in the world — which are not mansions and lands and bank accounts, but the Sacraments, Sacred Scripture, and faith — he will hold us to a more rigorous scrutiny of how grateful we are for these gifts that are so much more valuable even than a cure from leprosy. He will give us all the grace we need to meet those higher standards of thanksgiving, but we need to desire and long for those graces and be grateful for them when they come.
- The saints the whole Church celebrates today gives us a great lesson about how we can become people who live up to this standard of gratitude. St. Francis Xavier Cabrini had many struggles in her life. She was sick throughout her life but it never led to her to become bitter, even when she was being rejected for reasons of health from religious communities she hoped to join. She almost drowned when she was a young girl and always had a great fear of the water, and yet, when God called her to spend so much of her life on the seas traveling to found new missions, she didn’t complain. Even when she encountered many problems with Church leaders or with the orphans she taught and families she served, she didn’t grouse. Why not? The opening prayer of the Mass gives us a clue. “By her example,” we ask God, “teach us to have concern for the stranger, the sick and those in need, and by her prayers help us to see Christ in all the men and women we meet.” The key for her was to see God with her in her illness and how it would open her up to a deeper encounter with him just like the leper’s illness eventually brought him to salvation; she saw God in the orphans she cared for, however unruly they were; she saw Jesus’ will in shutting some doors in her face when she wanted to serve him, knowing that he would open other doors. For us to become people who thank the Father always and everywhere, we need to become people who see Christ with us always and everywhere, because even if we’re struggling through something very hard, when we recognize that Christ is with us, we have all the reason not only not to fear but to be grateful and to be joyful. That was St. Francis Xavier Cabrini’s great secret. Today we ask God through her intercession to help us to see Christ in all the men and women, all the situations, all the joys and sufferings, that we encounter and learn not only how to thank the Father for the gift of Christ’s saving presence at every moment but also how to thank the Father through, with and in Christ.
- The greatest way we learn to become people of Thanksgiving is through praying the Mass aright. The Greek word for Eucharist means Thanksgiving, and this is the great prayer of Thanskgiving that we pray together with Christ to the Father. I’ve always been struck by the words of consecration. “At the time he was betrayed, … Jesus took bread, and giving thanks … said, ‘… This is my body … given… for you.'” “In a similar way, when supper was ended, he took the chalice and once more giving thanks, gave it to his disciples, saying, … ‘This is the chalice of my blood.'” Jesus was able to give thanks even on the eve of his crucifixion! Jesus was able to give thanks for the opportunity to offer his body and blood for us and our salvation! If he can give thanks in these circumstances, then we can not only learn from him in the Mass, but receive his very help, so that we, too, may give the Father thanks always and everywhere. That is our blessed duty and our salvation.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
learn, you magistrates of the earth’s expanse!
Hearken, you who are in power over the multitude
and lord it over throngs of peoples!
Because authority was given you by the Lord
and sovereignty by the Most High,
who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels.
Because, though you were ministers of his kingdom, you judged not rightly,
and did not keep the law,
nor walk according to the will of God,
Terribly and swiftly shall he come against you,
because judgment is stern for the exalted–
For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy
but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test.
For the Lord of all shows no partiality,
nor does he fear greatness,
Because he himself made the great as well as the small,
and he provides for all alike;
but for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends.
To you, therefore, O princes, are my words addressed
that you may learn wisdom and that you may not sin.
For those who keep the holy precepts hallowed shall be found holy,
and those learned in them will have ready a response.
Desire therefore my words;
long for them and you shall be instructed.
PS 82:3-4, 6-7
Defend the lowly and the fatherless;
render justice to the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the lowly and the poor;
from the hand of the wicked deliver them.
R. Rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth.
I said: “You are gods,
all of you sons of the Most High;
yet like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
R. Rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth.
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, 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.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
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.”