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Friday, 7 October 2016

Reflection/Homily: Twenty-Eight (28th) Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year C

Theme: What is your Gratitude Response?

Sometime ago, the social media was inundated with what came to be known as the ‘Gratitude Challenge’ where people mentioned things they were grateful for or people they were grateful to, while nominating their friends to do the same for nine days. One advantage of that online exercise is that it offered people the opportunity to think about the numerous favours they have received and the much expected thanks they had failed to give. Today, it appears that the culture of giving thanks for favours received is gradually giving way for the culture of indifference and ingratitude. I once bought a biscuit for a little boy during the just concluded apostolic work and rather than thank me for the gift, he was asking me why I bought that brand and not another. After receiving favours from God or man, rather than give thanks for what we have received, we either ask for more like Oliver Twist or wish we had received the other type of favour. We are hardly satisfied with what we get that we often forget to give thanks. 

The first reading (2 Kings 5:14-17) presents us with the example of Naaman who was desperate to be healed of his leprosy and when he was healed after bathing in the Jordan, thought it wise to go back to the prophet to give thanks. The Gospel reading (Luke 17:11-19) in like manner presents us with the example of the Samaritan leper who was healed of leprosy alongside nine others but returned to Jesus alone to give thanks. Jesus asks “were not all ten healed? Where are the other nine?” Through this, he expresses the fact that God expects that we come back to thank Him for favours received. The way we express our gratitude to God for favours received is what I prefer to call our ‘gratitude response’. In the readings, we observe that Naaman and the Samaritan leper differed in their gratitude response. In expressing their gratitude with something more than mere words, Naaman brought some presents while the Samaritan leper ‘praising God at the top of his voice, threw himself at the feet of Jesus’. That is, he became a disciple of Christ by listening to him and following him. We can therefore conclude that while Naaman was more materialistic in his gratitude response, the Samaritan leper was more spiritual. Naaman gave what he had while the Samaritan leper gave himself. 

Today, our interest is not on the importance of gratitude but on the type of gratitude response we make when we are favoured by God. Are we more materialistic or spiritual in our gratitude response? I do not intend to condemn material thanksgiving but I want to decry how much materialistic we have become to the extent that we totally neglect the spiritual aspect of thanksgiving. It is observed in our churches today how families who intend to go for a thanksgiving procession at Mass come very late to Mass and leave immediately after presenting their gifts. One wonders if God is more interested in their gifts or in their presence for worship. In the first reading, Elisha’s rejection of Naaman’s material gifts implies that God the owner and giver of all things is not so much interested in our material gifts as tokens of gratitude. God is more interested in a spiritual gratitude response  like the Samaritan leper did in the Gospel reading, where we come to praise and thank Him with the totality of our being, not just with what we have but with what we are by staying at his feet as his authentic disciples. God expects that we thank Him for His favours not just by being His benefactors but by being His disciples too. He grants us favours in other to draw us closer to Himself and not for us to reward Him. 

It appears Naaman was more interested in rewarding the prophet for his role in his healing than in thanking God for the healing. We see this attitude in miracle centres and crusade grounds when testimonies are not meant to praise God who performed the miracles but to massage the ego of the minister. The interest diverts to how the use of special anointing oil blessed by a particular man of God worked wonders rather than how God looked at the faith of His people and granted them favours through the use of those sacred items. Some even consider thanksgiving ceremonies not as opportunities to praise God but as opportunities to reward the man of God for his untiring prayers and efforts while they were asking God for a particular favour. 

Beloved friends, today we are afflicted not just by physical leprosy but by the leprosy of sin. As often as we get washed and healed through the ocean of mercy flowing from the confessional, what is our gratitude response? The best gratitude repsonse should be the firm decision to follow Jesus and avoid returning to the dungeon of sin rather than mere ceremonial thanksgiving. Ceremonial thanksgiving is good but a sincere commitment to follow Chist whom St. Paul tells us in the second reading (2 Timothy 2:18-13) is always faithful even when we are unfaithful is better. God loves you.

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