Homilies

  

Do you enjoy our preaching resources?

Thanks to the ongoing support of our generous benefactors, The Athenaeum of Ohio / Mount St. Mary’s Seminary is able to provide solid, Catholic resources to priests, deacons and lay ministers. Your support, and prayers, will help us to help them Lead the Church and Change the World!

Make Your Online Donation Today!


 

Select Homily
October, 13 2019

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Dr. Susan Fleming McGurgan

 

 

They were both pitied and feared;

lamented and shunned.

 

The 10 lepers who met Jesus on the road to Jerusalem

lived as ghosts

wandering in the shadows 

and along the bramby edges of the path.

 

Who knows how long they had suffered or the pain they endured?

Who knows what sweetness they left behind

Or the shattered dreams that marked their sleep

 

They had been cursed by God…everyone knew that.

visited by a plague that did not kill,

but never seemed to end.

Their families mourned them as dead,

Though their bodies lived on.

 

In the eyes of the world

they were unclean; lost; abandoned by God and the world

their rotting skin

and outward and visible sign of their rotting sins.

 

Where did they get the nerve to raise their voices?

Where did they get the courage?

How did they dare to believe in life

when the world saw them as dead?

 

Whatever faith or desperation drove them to Jesus,  

These ten lepers got it all.

A new start,

A clean bill of health

A chance to reclaim their lives.

 

And in their joy, they ran out to embrace it.

Who could blame them?

 

They ran to go and see the priests to receive a verdict:

Clean or Unclean.

Free or Captive.

Cured or Doomed.

Restored Member of the Community

or rejected beggar standing on the outskirts of town. 

 

As they ran, the lesions vanished,  

scarred tissue was re-knit and made whole;

color returned,

feeling came back into limbs that had been numb for years.

Old bandages fell away as new skin emerged. 

 

Nine ran obediently to do as they were told,

One did not.

Nine raced to embrace their new life.

One did not.

Nine looked ahead, to a future filled with freedom.

One looked back.

 

The tenth leper turned, and did not stop

until he lay at the feet of Jesus, on his face in the dirt,  

praising God and giving thanks.

 

He was a Samaritan, a foreigner, a Non-Jew.

 

He was an outsider; one considered blind to the truth,

But despite this, the 10th leper saw what others could not.

He responded as the others did not.

He lived as the others could not.   

 

“The other nine, where are they?” Jesus asked.

 

Ten received new life,

But one fell on his face at the feet of Jesus.   

Ten were healed 

But one offered praise and thanksgiving.    

Ten were restored to the community;

one began to live in gratitude.

 

Biblical gratitude is more than being polite.

It is more than a nice gesture

or a sign that your Mama raised you right.

Observant Jews are encouraged to start every day

by being grateful for waking up.  

In Islam, the purpose of each of the 5 daily prayers

is not to petition for needs, but rather to show gratitude to God.   

Philosophers have suggested that gratitude

is one of the most important human emotions for a society’s success.

Religious and spiritual thinkers teach it is critical for religious life.

Psychologists confirm that gratitude is vital to emotional and mental well being. 

Gratitude is acknowledging the goodness in our lives.

It is an appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful.

It is an cognitive and emotional response to receiving something good.  

 

Gratitude recognizes that there is a debt to be paid;

An offer accepted;

An invitation answered;

A Gift unwrapped.

Gratitude is the fundamental stance of one who knows God.

The tenth leper recognized, not only the GIFT he was given,

But also the GIVER who offered it.  

The tenth leper understood that gratitude is about relationship;

An encounter with Christ.

 

For us, the Tenth Leper is more than a lucky guy, blessed by God,

An unnamed man singled out for a miraculous healing;   

He is, in fact, a model for our discipleship.

 

Like the tenth leper, we are called to embrace gratitude,

just as we embrace the Body and Blood Christ. 

In Greek, eucharist means "thanksgiving"," gratitude".

So the Eucharist we share is a sacrifice of thanksgiving and gratitude to the father who nourishes us.  

As people immersed in the sacraments,

gratitude should be the water in which we swim,

the air we breathe, the heartbeat we dance to.

 

Biblical gratitude demands that we not only speak thanks

It also requires that we live thanks;

That we return our gifts for God’s glory

and share our blessings with a broken world.

The 10th leper returned, not because he was polite,

but because he recognized the giver.

He had taken on a debt

and his life was forever changed

in ways that had nothing to do with clear skin or a restored life.  

His debt required a public witness to God’s goodness;

an entire life offered back in gratitude.

 

In a state of gratitude,

we say yes to the gift of life.

We affirm that life is good;

And we recognize that the source of this goodness

lies outside of ourselves.

 

Gratitude, above all,  is a way of witnessing to the Truth.

Like all true things,

Living gratitude is not always simple or easy or without cost.

 Living gratitude does not prevent pain or protect us from harm.

It does not spare us from life,

but rather, immerses us more deeply into life.

For some people,

gratitude is difficult because life is difficult.

We hurt.

We are broken in ways we cannot even name.

We know that despite our prayers,

not everyone with a disease is cured. 

Not every outcast is restored to the community.

Not every sheep will be found,

not every story has a happy ending in this world,

not every prodigal finds his way home.

 

Sometimes, the lost just stay lost,

and the people left behind

spend the rest of their lives

trying to patch the holes in the family album.  

 

For some of us, gratitude feels like a luxury we can’t afford,

or a dream we experienced long ago and far away.

How do we believe in joy, and goodness and redemption

when everything we touch feels bleached out and dried up?    

And even beyond poverty, illness or grief,  

there are many ordinary circumstances

in which gratitude does not come easily to people.

 

We are often tempted to see life as a zero sum game;

to believe it is normal for the world to be divided into two camps--

the winners and losers;

bullies and victims;

haves and have nots;

empty and filled. 

 

We pick up our devices,

and scroll through the carefully curated images and stories on our facebook or twitter feed--

narratives that at their core are competitive,

aspirational, triumphal, and photoshopped into unreality…

and it is easy to believe that everyone we know is prettier,

more successful, happier, skinnier, with a more attentive spouse and better behaved children ….

And we begin to think--  

maybe there IS something wrong with me…

Maybe there isn’t enough to go around…

jobs, popularity, money, attention, love, God’s blessings---

so we had better grab all we can, when we can, while we can.   

 

If our heart is filled with envy and desire,  

we will look at the world around us

and see bitterness instead of hope. 

 

If our minds are filled with profit and loss and who is winning and losing,

our lives will unfold as a spreadsheet

rather than a journey

 

If our tool box is filled with hammers,  

we will see a lot that needs pounding.

 

The idea that life is rooted in scarcity rather than abundance

has a powerful hold on us.

This point of view is the opposite of what our faith teaches,

and it sucks the hope right out of us

like a child sucking the syrup our of a slurpee,

leaving us empty and colorless

and starving for something sweet.

 

But faith, neuroscience and psychology all tell us

that we can actively choose to practice gratitude,

and that doing so makes a difference in our lives.

There is a concrete, intimate and dynamic relationship

between gratitude and hope.

We are discovering that hope can be learned—

like state capitals and punctuation rules.

It can be practiced—like clarinet scales or how to throw a curve ball.    

It can be taught—like geometry or Latin participles.

 

Even more reassuring, hope can be grown – like a virus in a petri dish. 

And like all viruses, it is contagious.

With a little effort, it can be passed from one person to another.

And like money, it can be banked for a rainy day.  

 

God designed our neurological system to have a self-perpetuating nature--

the more we  practice gratitude, the more attuned we are to it.

The more practice we give our brains at feeling and expressing gratitude,

the more those pathways are developed,

the more synapses are connected

and the more our brains adapt to this mind set. 

 

Gratitude is like a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened over time.

The more of an effort we make to feel gratitude today,

the more the feeling of hope will come to us spontaneously in the future.

 Scientists and psychologists tell us that people who practice gratitude—

People like the 10th leper who take the time to notice,

reflect on and give thanks for what they are thankful for,

experience more positive emotions,

feel more alive,

express more compassion and kindness,

sleep better

have more energy,

are more optimistic about the future,

are more willing to forgive others,

have stronger immune systems,

and feel more hopeful.

 

Gratitude is that powerful.  

 

We are learning that gratitude is connected with activity

 in the areas of the brain that deal with morality,

reward and value judgement.

 

Time and again,

Scientific studies have shown that performing simple gratitude exercises,

like keeping a gratitude diary

writing notes of thanks

singling out people or situations for which you are grateful

stopping to reflect upon blessings and give thanks

will bring feelings of increased well being and reduce anxiety. 

Health practitioners tell us that gratitude even has a power to heal.

 Gratitude and the hope it engenders is not simply for the moment.

We can “bank” hope to draw upon

when times are challenging

and it feels as if the desert journey will never end.

 

Gratitude spirals.

It is like a pebble thrown into still water.

The ripples reach out in waves,

far beyond the initial point of contact.

Mystics and saints have long taught us,

and now psychologists and researchers are proving,

that a grateful heart is closely connected to moral behavior.

The ability to feel and express gratitude

can be used as a sort of “moral barometer”.

Expressions of gratitude

reinforce positive social and moral behavior,

foster empathy

help neutralize socially disruptive behavior

and instill a greater propensity to help others. 

 

The tenth leper didn’t have access

to the latest cognitive research.

He didn’t have a subscription to Psychology Today

or participate in brain scan studies.

 

But he knew instinctively

what modern science is now discovering:

That gratitude is closely linked to mental and physical well being.  

 

He knew that an attitude of thanksgiving

was vital for his complete restoration;

He knew that if wanted to embrace

the abundant life he was offered,

He must also embrace a life of Gratitude.

 

This abundant life is offered to all of us, as well.

It is an amazing gift from a generous God

who loves us beyond measure.

"Rise and Go", Jesus said. "Your faith has saved you."

Directions| News| Events| Site Map| Vocations| Archdiocese Of Cincinnati| Other Dioceses| USCCB| Vatican