Thanking God for our Faith and for the Blessed Virgin Mary, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C), October 13, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Consecration of the World to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Pope Francis
October 13, 2013
2 Kings 5:14-17, 2 Tim 2:8-13, Lk 17:11-19

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click here: 

 

Thanksgiving and the greatest divine gift of all

Today’s first reading and Gospel are not simply about the Lord’s power to heal people of the dreadful disease of leprosy, but the larger point of how we’re supposed to respond when the Lord does give us an incredible gift like that.

Naaman was cured of leprosy, but the Lord had a greater gift in mind that came only after he came back to thank the prophet through whom God had given the cure. He came to realize there is no God in all the earth except the Lord and that he would no longer offer sacrifices or worship to false gods, but only to the true Lord.

The same thing happened in the Gospel. The Lord cured ten lepers, but had something even greater in mind — the gift of salvation — but only one received it, the one who came back.

It’s significant that Jesus says that this man was a Samaritan. Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, when Jesus highlights a Samaritan as the only one that took care of an ambushed man left to die while not just the Jews but the representatives of the Jews with the reputation for being the holiest— the priests and levites — gave excuses about why they needed to pass by on the opposite side of the road, so today Jesus mentions that the only one who came back was a Samaritan to highlight, basically, that his fellow Jews were a bunch of ingrates, who basically took for granted the incredible gift the Lord had given them and didn’t open themselves up to the even greater gift of faith God had in store. For us as Christians, who have been blessed with gifts of faith through Jesus far greater than the Jews ever received, our thanksgiving ought to be constant. But we need to make sure we regularly come to the Lord to thank him like the grateful Samaritan rather than treat him like the other nine lepers.

On Friday we marked the first anniversary of the beginning of the Year of Faith in the Church, a 410 day year that will continue until the Solemnity of Christ the King. During this Year, the Lord wants to increase our faith, but in order for that to occur, we first need to be thankful. Without gratitude, as we learn in today’s readings, we won’t be open to receive God’s greater gift.

The many things for which we ought to be grateful

Gratitude. We’re called to be grateful for all aspects of our faith. For God’s incredible love for us shown in creation but particular in Jesus’ becoming one of us in order to die to make it possible for us to live forever. For the ability to pray and for God’s willingness always to listen and respond. For the Word of God and the preaching of the prophets and apostles. For our parents, godparents, grandparents and all our other heroes of faith who passed this treasure on to us. For the parishes where we have encountered God, including our new parish of St. Bernadette, and all our fellow parishioners. For the Sacrament of Baptism, that made us a child of God. For the Sacrament of Confession by which Jesus has never stopped forgiving us. For the Sacrament of Thanksgiving, literally the Holy Eucharist (the Greek word for “thanksgiving”), which is our great nourishment here on earth, the greatest gift ever. For the Gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation and all the gifts of wisdom, prudence, knowledge, understanding, reverence, fear of the Lord and courage that we continuously need. For the education in the faith we’ve had, at Catholic schools or CCD programs. For the great Popes with which God has blessed us. For even the Crosses God has given us from which he was drawn good to make us more and more like him and appreciative of all we have that we can sometimes take for granted when there is no suffering. It would be easy to continue to enumerate so many blessings for which we’re grateful.

Gratitude for the Blessed Virgin Mary in our Lives

But today it is important for us to thank God for one blessing in particular. The blessing of the Mother Jesus gave us as he was dying to save us on the Cross when he turned to his beloved disciple and said, “Behold your Mother” and turned to her and said “Behold your Son!” Mary has embraced us as her own and loves us as she loves her Son as she seeks to pray for us, to help us, and to guide us to become more and more like her Son. October is a month particularly dedicated to her, when with gratitude, we enter her school of the Holy Rosary so that, in pondering with her the mystery of her Son’s life and hers, we can see the incredible blessings God wants to give us through obtaining what the mysteries contain. We’re grateful because Mary has made a total commitment of her life to helping us grow in faith. But that commitment cannot and should not remain unrequited. Today in the Vatican Pope Francis has led the whole Church in making a reciprocated commitment to her, consecrating ourselves, the entire Church and the world to her maternal care. He wants us all to turn to her with gratitude and entrust ourselves to her maternal work, which is to help her Son Jesus be fully formed in her.

The importance of consecration to Mary’s immaculate heart

Today is the 96th anniversary of the last of the Marian apparitions to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucy, the three shepherd children in Fatima and Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican the statue of Our Lady of Fatima from the Portuguese shrine. It was in Fatima that Mary — after revealing to them three visions that showed the real consequences of sin: a vision of Hell, of the rise of atheistic communism with all the havoc it would wreak, and of the suffering of the Church, including the shooting of a bishop dressed in white — she likewise indicated to them the solution to all of these evils caused by sin: consecration to her Immaculate Heart. It’s the total commitment of ourselves to her pure heart, a heart that loves God and us, a heart that says “yes,” a heart that knows no selfishness, a heart that beats in union with her Son’s. Pius XII consecrated the entire world to her Immaculate Heart in 1942 and renewed it a decade later. On the first anniversary of the day in which he was shot, Pope John Paul II went to Fatima to consecrate the whole world to her anew, and renewed it two years later in the Vatican during the Jubilee of Redemption. This weekend Pope Francis has renewed that consecration and asked us all to join it

To consecrate ourselves to Mary means to make a total commitment of ourselves to her, to allow her to serve us and sanctify us. At the end of this homily, we will consecrate ourselves to her with the words Pope Francis used this morning. But before we do, I want to share with you some of Pope Francis’ thoughts about how Mary’s faith is meant to strengthen our faith as we make this consecration and continue to live out this Year of Faith.

Mary’s faith and our own

Pope Francis said yesterday when he welcomed the image of Our Lady of Fatima to Rome, “Mary always brings us to Jesus. She is a woman of faith, a true believer.” He says that there are three aspects of her faith that we should all imitate:

The first is that she shows us how faith remedies the evil of sin. He quotes St. Ireneus who said “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.” He gave the analogy of how little children, when they tell one lie, often need to tell several others to protect the first, and what they do is they begin to entangle themselves in knots, something that wounds their parents’ ability to trust them. “Something of the same sort happens in our relationship with God,” he said. “When we do not listen to him, when we do not follow his will, we do concrete things that demonstrate our lack of trust in him – for that is what sin is – and a kind of knot is created deep within us. These knots take away our peace and serenity. They are dangerous, since many knots can form a tangle that gets more and more painful and difficult to undo.” But Mary helps us to turn to God’s mercy. “Mary, whose ‘yes’ opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy.” The Pope urged all of us, as part of our consecration to Mary, to examine what knots we have in our life and how we ought to ask Mary to help us trust in God’s mercy.

The second aspect of Mary’s faith that guides our own is how to give “human flesh to Jesus.” He stressed, with the fathers of the Church, that Mary conceived Jesus first in faith and then in her womb, and each of us is called likewise to conceive Jesus within us by faith. There’s a temptation, Pope Francis said, to look at the incarnation as “simply a past event that has nothing to do with us personally,” but we’re called to learn from Mary how to give our own flesh to Jesus with the humility and courage of Mary, so that like he dwelled in her, he can dwell in us. He got specific: “It means giving him our hands, to caress the little ones and the poor; our feet, to go forth and meet our brothers and sisters; our arms, to hold up the weak and to work in the Lord’s vineyard, our minds, to think and act in the light of the Gospel; and especially our hearts, to love and to make choices in accordance with God’s will..”

The third way Mary’s faith is meant to impact our own is by helping us see that faith is a journey, a pilgrimage. Mary precedes and guides us on that pilgrimage of faith. “How was Mary’s faith a journey?,” Pope Francis asks. He responds: “In the sense that her entire life was to follow her Son: he is the way, he is the path!” For us that means that “to press forward in faith, to advance in the spiritual pilgrimage which is faith, is nothing other than to follow Jesus; to listen to him and be guided by his words; to see how he acts and to follow in his footsteps; to have his same sentiments of humility, mercy, closeness to others, but also his firm rejection of hypocrisy, duplicity and idolatry.” It’s a “way of a love that is faithful to the end, even unto sacrificing one’s life; it is the way of the cross.” Mary understood that the path of faith always leads to the Cross, and the Pope beautifully stressed that even in the darkest hours of Good Friday and Holy Saturday when Jesus’ body was in the tomb, “Mary’s faith was a little flame burning in the night … until the dawn of the resurrection.” Our faith, likewise, the Pope says, needs to stay “burning even at times of difficulty and darkness.” The Pope went on this morning in his homily at St. Peter’s Square to convey to us that Mary shows us the constancy of faith throughout the Christian journey. God “demands that we be faithful in following him.” He calls us to the same fidelity, the same commitment, he makes to us. Mary’s “yes” to God was not a one-time thing but a constant response to God in good times and in bad. Consecrating ourselves to her helps us not to be a part-time Christian, a Christian by fits and starts, but, like her, “to walk with the Lord always, even at moments of weakness, even in our sins. … Faith is ultimate fidelity, like that of Mary” and Mary wants to teach all of us that path.

Consecrating ourselves to Mary

At the end of Mass this morning, he led the entire people of God in an act of consecration to Mary, entrusting us to her maternal desire to help us untie the knots in our lives, to give our flesh to Jesus, to follow him with a firm commitment through the valleys and mountains of life all the way. Today, on the day in which we thank God for the gift of his Mother who gave us so great a redeemer, and as we thank her for her maternal love, we thank them in advance to the graces needed to make this consecration, united with Pope Francis and the whole world. We ask Mary to intercede for us for the graces to remain faithful to this consecration and faithful to God on the pilgrimage of life.

I’d like to ask everyone to kneel with me before this statue of Our Lady in the sanctuary and to pray these words of entrustment not just with your lips and mind but with all your heart.

“O Blessed Virgin [of Fatima], with renewed gratitude for your material presence, we unite our voice to that of all generations who call you blessed. We celebrate in you the great works of God who never tires of bending down with mercy on a humanity afflicted by evil and wounded by sin in order to heal and save it. Welcome with the benevolence of a Mother the act of consecration that we make today with trust before your image that is so cherished by us. We are certain that each one of us is precious in your eyes and that nothing that dwells in our hearts is foreign to you. Let us surround your most sweet gaze so that we may receive the consoling caress of your smile. Guard our life within your arms, bless and strengthen every desire for good; revive and nourish our faith; sustain and illumine our hope; raise up and enliven our charity; guide all of us in the way of holiness. Teach us your special love for the little ones and the poor, for those excluded and suffering, for the sinners and those who are lost in heart. Surround us all under your protection and entrust us all to your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.” 

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
2 KGS 5:14-17

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.Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God.
On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said,
“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth,
except in Israel.
Please accept a gift from your servant.”

Elisha replied, “As the LORD lives whom I serve, I will not take it;”
and despite Naaman’s urging, he still refused.
Naaman 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.”

Responsorial Psalm
PS 98:1, 2-3, 3-4

R. (cf. 2b) The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
his right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands:
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Reading 2
2 TM 2:8-13

Beloved:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David:
such is my gospel, for which I am suffering,
even to the point of chains, like a criminal.
But the word of God is not chained.
Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen,
so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, 
together with eternal glory.
This saying is trustworthy:
If we have died with him
we shall also live with him;
if we persevere
we shall also reign with him.
But if we deny him
he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny himself.

Gospel
LK 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
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 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.
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.”