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Experiencing God’s love and mercy

Homily for 28th Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013

ten lepersA month after I and two other friends first arrived in Australia, we joined Corpus Christi seminary in Melbourne. We were introduced to the seminarians, and I was happy to see the mixed crowd there, I mean the mixture of nationalities in the seminary- Vietnamese, Filipinos, Korean, Italian, Indian and Australians of course. I thought, I could blend in with them then if these other nationalities can. However, I found it hard at first because there  was very little done for the other seminarians who are none-Australians so it seemed to me anyway. I could feel that there was strong expectation for us to inculturate, and to do the hard part ourselves. So one day I said to one of the formators: ‘You expect us to inculturate here, and be like Australians, we can’t do that. We can’t compromise our cultural upbringing and our beautiful culture and country you know. If you expect us to inculturate, meet us halfway, and we grow together.’ The formator might have taken that comment seriously, which he should have to, the following year he appointed me in charge of the chapel and sacristy, in terms of day to day liturgy and prayers. So the first thing I did was to acknowledge the diversity of the seminary. One Friday in Lent as we usually do all Fridays in Lent, we had Stations of the cross. I approached some seminarians of different nationalities and assigned them to lead one station in their own language. And that was amazing. It was just a beautiful experience of celebrating that certain unity, oneness in expressing an aspect of Christian faith in different languages and different people. It’s just amazing to reflect on how  far the message of the Cross reached out into the world. I come to appreciate all the more the beauty of Christ, of his love and of his mercy, because it transcends culture, it goes out to all the world, to all people. It is just an amazing thing to ponder how our faith in Christ can transcend any cultural barrier, any language, any race, and even social status.  

I’m sharing this with you because in our gospel today, Jesus is showing us that not only his influence or popularity is reaching to everyone but also, and in fact, more of his mercy for everyone. His love and mercy reach out to all people, rich or poor, man or woman, old or young, child or adult, healthy or sick. “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power”, so the Psalmist sings. And the ten lepers cured by Jesus as we heard in the gospel today could attest to this.  

The Good News for us is that God wants us to realize and to experience the beauty of his  love and mercy. But how we can experience this?

First be humble. We need to humble ourselves before God. It is a big call, because this means we need to face the truth of who we are, what we are capable of, what are our limitations. It is even a big challenge to face for us who are in the position of authority. We need to learn from the humility of Jesus, “who came not to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45). This is a struggle for Naaman, a man of great authority as we heard in our First Reading today. Despite his high position, and presumably his ‘security’ or insurance, he was helpless with regards to his disease- leprosy. He couldn’t do anything about it. So he sent his servants to go to Prophet Elisha and  pray for his healing. In return, he was told to go and wash himself in the Jordan. But he was angry because one, somebody dared to tell him what to do when he must have been the one giving the orders and two, it wasn’t what he’s expecting to happen. He said: ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.’ He was also upset because he was told to go to the place he didn’t like going at all. He said: ‘Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ But thank be to God for his servants who persuaded him to go. He humbled himself, he listened, he went and he was cured. To be humble, we need to learn how to listen to God speaking to us in many forms and ways, and then act on it. We need to start practicing it now because humility is the ladder to heaven, so we must start climbing it now if we really are serious in going to heaven.

Second be grateful. Someone once said: ‘One of the greatest sins in our time is ingratitude.’ How many gifts have we received from God? How grateful are we for them?  We are  not be like the other nine lepers who had immediately forgotten who had given them their health again. We must not take for granted the life that God generously gives us to live and to enjoy every moment, everyday. We are to be mindful always that God has given us a new life again, just as he has given new life to the lepers again. See, in Jesus’  time, lepers were practically ‘walking dead’. Physically their flesh are decaying. Psychologically, their dignity and value as human beings was just trampled, neglected, marginalized. We could just imagine their feeling of uselessness, ugliness and helplessness. Socially, they were considered outsiders, outcasts. They had to stand afar off and even acknowledge their presence to warn people saying ‘unclean! Unclean! Spiritually, they were feeling unlovable, unloved even by God himself because in their time they consider leprosy as a punishment from God for their sins. They’re dead but Jesus gave them life again. They should have been grateful for that, but only one turned back to express his gratitude to the person who turned his life around. Let us be thankful to God for everything we have received and for God who turned our life around.     

Third, let us be aware of the ‘little’ people that God sometimes sent and used to help us. These are the people who at first glance might have little or even nothing to do with us at all. But despite their ‘littleness’ they could do something great for us. Few examples: the little boy who brought 5 loaves and two fish, which Jesus had blessed and divided and fed to 5 thousand and more; the widow who entered into the temple who gave her only silver coins to the offering; the servants of Naaman, who persuaded him to listen to the prophet’s words [if he hadn’t acted on it, he would never have been cured; the Samaritan leper in the gospel today who had to find his way back into the crowd to thank Jesus for his healing, and many others. These little people are oftentimes God’s way to show us He cares for us, He listens to us and He loves us still no matter who we are and where we’re from.

He wills that all of us be saved. And He wishes that we experience his acts of caring, of loving, and of saving us. We can experience this if we learn to be humble, to be grateful, and to be aware of the little people who might come our way bringing us great blessings and gifts from God. To really experience God and God’s presence in our lives, let us meet Him halfway.

 

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