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Pastor's Letter 20221009 - 09 October 2022 - Giving Thanks to God

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October 9th, 2022

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Jesus cleanses the lepers

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  “Giving Thanks to God”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

(2 Kings 5:14-17)  Elisha, whose name, in Hebrew, means “God is salvation,” was active in the northern kingdom of Israel for about 50 years (ca. 850-800 B.C.)  Having become such a legendary figure in subsequent tradition, as Elijah’s successor, it has become almost impossible to separate fiction from fact, vis-à-vis his accomplishments.  Nonetheless, today’s selection surrounds an encounter with the Gentile, Naaman, who was a Syrian commander of the king’s army.  Naaman was miraculously cured of his leprosy by washing himself in the Jordan, at Elisha’s direction.  In doing so, he came to believe in the superior power of the God of Israel.


(2 Timothy 2:8-13)  Imprisoned in Rome, near the end of his life, Paul was concerned that those he had brought to Christ would continue in faithful service to the Gospel he had preached to them.  He urged Timothy and all Christians to accept their suffering as in inevitable factor in the Church’s development.  Moreover, no amount of repression could ever successfully eradicate the force of God’s saving Word.  Having been made incarnate in the person of Jesus—by His divine intervention into human history— the Word will be heard for all time.


(Luke 17;11-19)  In ancient times, leprosy was used  as an “umbrella term” to describe a vast variety of anomalies of the skin and/or objects (Leviticus 13: i.e. mildew on fabrics or walls; rashes, skin eruptions, etc.,) making affected people “unclean,” requiring ritual purification.  (In modern times, the bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae, has been found to be the cause of the most blatant form, now termed “Hansen’s disease”—after Norwegian physician, G. Hansen, in 1873—and was the first microorganism determined to cause human disease.)  Even until the 20th century, those who obviously suffered from the disease were ostracized from society, and in Jesus’ time, if they approached others, were required to call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” as they passed.  

The episode of the “ten lepers” a story peculiar to Luke’s Gospel, has been regarded as a moralizing example, illustrating gratitude as the proper attitude toward God’s blessings.  The sole, grateful, cured Samaritan was seen as an indication that God’s saving grace was available to all people; and an example that sometimes the least likely person is capable of recognizing God’s hand at work.  


Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist, during WWII.  Made famous in the book, Schindler’s Ark, and the film, Schindler’s List, he saved more than 1,000 Polish Jews from the concentration camps.  As the war ended, they awaited the arrival of the Russians.  Schindler, too, decided to flee to the west.

When his Jewish workers, now free, heard he was leaving, they wanted to express their gratitude for his heroic efforts.  They came together, and volunteered the gold bridgework from their teeth to make a ring for him.  In it, they inscribed “The one who saves a single life, saves the entire world,” from the Talmud.

It was an astonishing and deeply moving act!  One of the marvelous things about gratitude, is that it makes us want to give something “back.”  An old French proverb states: “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.”  Some might say their gesture was the least they could do, considering they owed their lives to Schindler.  But their sentiment was driven by their knowing without his help, their gold teeth would have been piled in heaps by the Nazis!

We are better at demanding gratitude than giving it.  It’s an indicator of how selfish much our giving can be!  If anyone finds his brother ungrateful, It’s not the other person’s happiness they seek, but their own….

Jesus demanded gratitude, but not for Himself.  When He said, “Has no one come back to give praise to God except this foreigner,” He was thinking of the lepers.  It is a good and necessary thing for the recipient of a favor to be able to show gratitude.

It's important for us to show gratitude, because, first of all, it forces us to acknowledge the debt we owe to others.  Of course, it’s good for the other person, too, as it makes them feel our appreciation.  A person who does not give thanks for small courtesies, often does not do so for substantial ones.  

As for expressing gratitude to God…we must realize that God doesn’t need our thanks.  But we need to thank God, to remind us that everything we have we owe to Him.  We must be thankful for both the bad things as well as the good ones in our lives—the sorrows as well as the joys; our failures as well as our successes.  This is no easy task.  We can truly call ourselves grateful people only when we can say thanks for everything that has brought us in our lives.  This kind of gratitude enables us to reclaim our whole past, and to see it as the concrete way in which God has led us to the present moment.  

Looking back over our lives, we recall those things that caused us to be hurt as well as those which helped us.  Often they cannot be separated from one another.  In all of them, however, we must try to see the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit.

Looking Deeper

Our Gospel story today has another lesson, namely, finding God through pain.  Pain can drive people away from God, or it can bring them closer to Him.  Many convert could be called “Good Friday converts”—they enter the Kingdom through the gates of suffering, like Naaman, in today’s First Reading.  

In good times, we forget God, even though we may continue to pay lip-service to Him.  But then, an illness or some-such thing “brings us to our knees,” and suddenly, we are face-to-face with our poverty, weakness and mortality.  Then, we realize how flimsy are the foundations on which we have built our hopes. 

If we don’t despair, such occurrences may bring us closer to God, and make us more spiritual—proving to have been a “blessing in disguise.”  We don’t have control over what happens to us, but we do control how we react to events.  

Working as a chaplain for the Albuquerque Police Department for eight years, I encountered many people who had suddenly lost a loved one.  Some reacted with sorrow, as one would expect, and through spiritual counseling and help from immediate family, were able to begin the normal, healthy grieving process.  Some, however, were inconsolable, even reacting with rage and fury (lucky for me, only once was it directed at me, as the bearer of the unfortunate news.)  Despairing, they sought to blame God, and were unable to move through the tragedy, and retreated in shock.  

Other times, people may recover after being severely wounded in an accident.  They might choose to live with their experience in bitterness, and become destroyed by it.  Alternately, they might trust that their pain holds the possibility that some good may come from the incident.  It’s not a question of forgetting it, but remembering it and integrating it into one’s life.  

In summary, the willingness to give something back is a great sign of gratitude.  A person full of gratitude had no room for bitterness or resentment.  All happy people are grateful, whereas, ungrateful people cannot find happiness.  (Here is a short presentation from Dennis Prager, I’ve found very insightful:  https://www.prageru.com/video/the-key-to-unhappiness)

May God Richly Bless You!


When in our Music God is Glorified.docx

You can view a recording of today's Holy Mass, here:


Edited by Father Michael
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