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28th Sunday in OT (C)

We need to remember LUKE 17:11-19

By Abbot John Pereira OSB

“When Jesus saw the lepers, he said ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away, they were cleansed.”  (Luke 17:14)

Healing happens along the highway of obedience. The ten lepers were healed only after they obeyed Jesus’ words to go and show themselves to the priests. Obedience facilitates healing.

A similar theme occurs in today’s first reading from the Book of Kings.  Naaman the leper was also cured only after an act of obedience. Naaman comes to Samaria despite his two-fold uncleanness: he is a pagan and he is a leper.

Because he obeyed God by trusting Elisha, he received a two-fold healing: his flesh was made whole and his heart was turned to the living God. “Now I know,” he said “that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15).

Naaman was the mighty army commander of the King of Aram. Aram had rivers of its own: Abana and Parpar, north of Damascus. Naaman wanted to know why he had to wash himself in the Jordan to be healed when there were great rivers in his own land. Eventually he does what the prophet says and his flesh became like the flesh of a little child (2 Kings 5:14). Humility brings healing.

To remember his healing, Naaman asks the prophet Elisha to allow him to take away as much earth as two mules may carry, because he says, he will “no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any god except the Lord” (2 Kings 5:17). Naaman wants to bring back earth to his home from the land of the God who healed him.

This is not so strange in popular Catholic devotion. Pilgrims go to holy shrines and bring back earth or water with them. It is part of the human psyche. It is a way of remembering.

Some pilgrims to Mount St Benedict take away holy water to remind themselves of what God has done for them. Pilgrims to the Holy Land and to sacred shrines like Lourdes and Fatima act similarly.

Muslims on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca do the same. One Islamic pilgrim once brought back for me a bottle of water from the well which the angel showed to Hagar in the wilderness after Abraham had sent her away (Gen 21:19). We need reminders.

In today’s second reading, Paul tells Timothy to: “Remember the good news that I carry” (2 Tim 2:8). Remembering leads to gratitude. When we recall the many good things that God has done and continues to do in our lives, we are led to give thanks.

Whatever else we do, we need to remember. In order to remember, Naaman took back two mule-loads of soil from Israel. What helps us to remember?

For healing to take place, we need to obey God’s law and we need to be humble. These are the qualities which the lepers in today’s gospel and Naaman the leper displayed before they were healed.

Obedience and Humility! And when we are healed by the Lord, we need always to remember His goodness to us. Memory facilitates gratitude.  Our religion is based on remembering. In the Eucharist we remember how Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it …

Heavenly Father! You have done so many wonderful things for us.  Help us to continually remember all Your deeds. We want to sing a new song to You, for You have done such great wonders.  In the words of today’s responsorial psalm, we recognise that it is only Your right hand and Your holy arm that have brought us salvation. And so, we give thanks to You, O Lord! Amen.

The gospel reflections for October are by Abbot John Pereira OSB of the Abbey of Our Lady of Exile, Mount St Benedict.