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Bishop's Homily for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time

We need to be the witnesses to the great things God has done for us.

By Bishop Larry Silva
October 09, 2022

[Holy Rosary Church, Paia]

It would be wrong to presume that the nine people with leprosy who did not return to Jesus after their healing were ungrateful.  They probably were so anxious to go back to their homes, from which they had to be separated, that reunion with family and friends was their highest priority.  I cannot imagine that they did not excitedly tell their loved ones about Jesus and how he had healed them.  It would also be wrong to presume that because Jesus criticized them for not returning to give thanks that Jesus therefore re-inflicted them.  He still loved them, and he still wanted them to enjoy the gift of good health and reintegration into society.

But there is something sacramental about what the Samaritan did, something spiritual that was expressed in a concrete way.  The others probably had a spiritual gratitude, but they did not make it physically concrete by going back to the healer to thank him personally.  We can say the same about the Old Testament story of Naaman, the Syrian general who was cured of leprosy not by bathing in the beautiful waters of Syria but by bathing in the River Jordan at the behest of the prophet Elisha.  There was something sacramental about that, since this was the same river that the Israelites crossed to enter the Promised Land after being freed from slavery in Egypt and wandering in the desert for forty years.  It was the same River Jordan in which John would baptize Jesus, signaling the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  Moreover, Naaman the Syrian wanted to take two muleloads of dirt from the Holy Land, because he knew it was holy land where the true and living God reigned over his people.  From that moment on, his gratitude to God was not just a spiritual gratitude but involved the concreteness of standing on holy ground, even if it had to be imported from Israel.

God loves all who are in the world, and many give thanks to God in their hearts.  They may be at the beach right now, amazed at the power and beauty of the ocean.  They may be hiking in the mountains, aware of their majesty and of the beauty of creation.  They may be having a spiritual thanksgiving in bed or lounging on the lanai.  But they have missed the importance of the sacramental nature of thanksgiving.

What we are doing here is extremely important.  We gather to celebrate the Eucharist, a word that means “thanksgiving.”  It is not only giving thanks to the Creator and the Redeemer for all they have done for us, which we can do anywhere, but coming into the presence of Jesus himself to bow down before him and thank him for all he has done for us.  Here Jesus is truly present as he is nowhere else.  Here, the Word of God, who was from the beginning, and through whom all things were made, speaks to us in the sacred words of Holy Scripture.  Here Jesus is physically present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Holy Eucharist.  The risen Christ, who ascended into heaven, is the living bread come down from heaven and makes himself so intimately present to us that he offers himself to us as food and drink.  Here we gather with the living Body of Christ, the Church, in a holy communion that is meant to help us enlighten the whole world.  Here we are not only grateful for the gifts we receive, but we sacramentally come into the presence of the Giver of those gifts, so that, like the Samaritan who had been healed, we can explicitly express our thanks to him.

We may not always be aware of the importance of physical worship, of gathering in the presence of the Lord Jesus, but it is essential for the salvation of the world.  We should not be self-congratulating, however, thinking that we are the 10% who came to the Giver of the gifts to personally give thanks for all we have received.  Because Jesus gives us a mission to share the Good News.  It is up to us to invite others to come and worship, too, by witnessing to Jesus and his sacramental presence among us; by telling people how much this worship of the Lord means to us; and by inviting them to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord” themselves.  If we are to shift from a culture that seems to not need God, perhaps because it sees each individual as his or her own god, we need to be the witnesses to the great things God has done for us.  Our mission is not just to come and physically give thanks to the Giver of all good gifts, but to tell the story of Jesus’ healing power and love so that all can experience the fulness of his love and renew the face of the earth.