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Bishop's Homily for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

October 13, 2019

[St. Stephen Diocesan Center, Kaneohe (Rite of Institution of Acolytes for Deacon Candidates)]

Not all miracles are instantaneous.  We so often hear of healings in the Scriptures that are described as happening in a flash, and, of course, some did; and God is always able to make them happen instantly.  But some miracles unfold over time, and almost all of them have a story behind them that led up to the miracle.

Naaman the Syrian was looking for a miracle.  Although today’s passage does not include all the details of his search, we know he was first directed to go to Israel by a Hebrew servant girl who was captured in a war and now served his wife.  He first presented himself to the king of Israel, who was shocked and almost insulted that someone should ask him to perform a miracle.  Then he is directed to Elisha the prophet, and he becomes angry when Elisha does not just snap his fingers and make the miracle happen.  Instead he finally conceded to do what Elisha asked and plunged in the Jordon seven times – a very gradual healing indeed.  There is yet another miracle that took place then, which was the conversion of Naaman’s heart to worship only the true and living God who had revealed himself to Israel.

While the healing of the ten people with leprosy seems instantaneous, there is much more to the story than we are told.  I do not imagine these ten people with leprosy all happened to show up in the same place at the same time.  They must have gotten together beforehand and discussed among themselves what they could do to better their state in life.  Someone must have told them that Jesus, the great healer, was coming to town, and they must have all decided together that they would give him a try.  Although all ten were healed, the expression of gratitude was only done by one, a Samaritan.  This does not mean that the other nine were re-infected, or even that they did not feel gratitude, but they did not bother to express their gratitude to the one who had given them the gift.  This little miracle of gratitude must have been a virtue that this person had nurtured in little ways all his life, and now it was commended by the Lord.

As we ask the Lord for miracles in our lives and our world, we also need to remember that not all miracles are instantaneous.  We may ask for healing from a certain infirmity, and while God sometimes does grant such healing almost instantaneously, very often it also involves the intervention of medical personnel who lead the person along the way toward healing.  If we ask for a healing of our world from violence, we know that it does not happen overnight, but the very desire for this tremendous miracle engages us in little ways to work diligently toward that goal by being less violent in our own thoughts and actions.  Although our prayers for an end to homelessness are not answered overnight, our dedication to them also motivates us to find concrete ways to make such a miracle happen over the course of years.

Little things are so important, because they can actually be the building blocks of huge miracles.  As we witnessed the canonization of St. John Henry Newman today, we see that little steps of intellectual and spiritual honesty, sometimes in the midst of rejection and suffering, made him the saint he has been declared to be.  As we celebrate this Rite of Institution of Acolytes for our deacon candidates, it is about doing little things:  moving a cruet from here to there, washing the hands of the main celebrant, holding the missal so he can see it.  None of these things is great or glorious, yet they all contribute to the miracle that takes place here of this living encounter with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  This sacrifice of thanksgiving calls us to be grateful for the communion with the risen Jesus that we are offered.  How true it is that of all who are blessed with God’s gifts of life, love, health, and happiness, only a small fraction come to this table to give thanks for all that God has given.  Yet even that small fraction can lead to miracles for others.  Our witness in small things can be like one of the plungings in the Jordan, the first six of which seem to be ineffective, but they are the building blocks of a miracle.

As we give thanks to God today for these men who have offered themselves for service as deacons, we celebrate a rite that seems to be “no big deal;” yet it is a building block of the miracle of transformation that the Lord will accomplish in all who have been called, so that our simple experience at this table to thanksgiving, of Eucharist, may be the building blocks for the miracle of the transformation of lives and of the world to be one in intimate communion with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our small voices of praise, although they may be seem to be drowned out by the overwhelming silence of others, are the little steps we can offer to everyone to one day participate in the great unending thanksgiving of heaven.