LEPERS THEN AND NOW, Sunday Homily, October 11, 2022

Sunday Homily – 28th Sunday C

2 Kings 5:14-17
2 Timothy 2:8-13
Luke 17:11-19

HOMILY

There is a close parallel between the gospel story of the Ten Lepers and lepers in civil society today – the ones who feel excluded, the ones who feel they don’t belong, the ones who feel they are outsiders, not insiders. Who are they? Let me offer some possibilities! First Nations folks (aborigines)? Refugees? Asylum seekers without documents? The homeless, the unemployed, and the elderly suffering dementia? People who are down on their luck and need food vouchers to survive? Persons who disagree with us on war, climate change, and other social and political issues? The mentally ill and the physically deformed? Those suffering from Long Covid? Mothers with children fleeing domestic violence? Many people feel ignored, shunned, and humiliated, day after day after day.

In our Christian communities, our churches, who are today’s lepers? Australian Jesuit priest, Richard Leonard, has listed the following persons as in need of understanding, and of tender, loving care from their church. He points out: ‘… there are divorced and remarried people who want to participate in the sacramental life of the church. There are women who have had abortions, couples using contraception or in vitro fertilization, women who feel called to ordained ministry, and gay and lesbian Catholics who tell us that what they hear from the church is that … the only place for them is outside the Temple and away from the community’ [Preaching to the Converted, p.340].

In meeting the Ten Lepers, Jesus did not let the question of how they became lepers stop him from helping and healing them. Neither should we, in our compassion and outreach to the lepers of today So, what can we do? Let me suggest: – 1. When we see them, don’t turn away from them, but turn towards them. Smile, look them in the eyes, and offer a ‘Good Morning’. Don’t be surprised if they light up and smile back. 2. To be truly pro-life, stand up for all life from conception to the grave. This includes the homeless, the mentally ill, and those who don’t share our lifestyle or religious beliefs. As Rick Warren says: ‘We can walk hand in hand without seeing eye to eye.’ 3. Speak up for those who are forgotten, ignored, excluded, and have no voice.

Still another parallel may be presumed. Just as ten lepers were made clean but only one was grateful, it’s unlikely that all outcasts are as grateful as they might be – to their supporters, families, friends, and carers.  It’s more likely that some – if only a few – are so preoccupied with their pain, discomfort, loss of meaning and hope, that they simply forget to acknowledge the love and care, the help and relief that they receive. After all, it’s only human nature to forget!

We, you and I, come into the picture, in another way. We may be very healthy, with healthy bodies and healthy sexuality. But are our attitudes completely healthy? How many social lepers do we know? How many would we be willing to know? For how many do we care or are willing to care?

What happened with the ten lepers raises another concern. Ten were cleansed, ten were helped, ten were healed, and ten were given back life, meaning, and hope, but only one returned to thank Jesus. He did so loudly and enthusiastically. So, do you and I appreciate and acknowledge the good that is done to us and the good that is done for us? Or are we so self-centred, so wrapped up in our little selves that we neglect to say thanks, and to show our appreciation for favours and kindnesses received?

Have you ever noticed children opening presents? They tear off the bows, the gift-wrap, and the cardboard, to go straight to the contents. They ignore the card that says where the present came from. They have to be told: ‘Say “thank-you” to Uncle Jim.’ ‘Give Auntie Jane a kiss.’ We can excuse little ones for this because they are not grown up. We others should know better and do better.

To our great credit tonight [today], we have come together to the Eucharist to give thanks to God, ‘from whom all blessings flow’. But when I see you praising and thanking God, I cannot but think of the words of Jesus: ‘Were not all ten made whole?’ Has not our entire parish been made whole in baptism? Were not hundreds of God’s people around here once connected by baptism to the person of Jesus Christ, and offered a lifelong relationship with him? So ‘where are the other nine?’ Where are they?

At other Masses, I hope – somewhere. As for you and me, having received so much from God through Jesus and his followers, how could any one of us possibly stay away from this time of heartfelt thanks for life, health, happiness, meaning, purpose, fulfilment, and the ongoing company and challenge of Jesus and our fellow-Christians? To mention just a few of the blessings that flow from our God of tender mercy, day after day after day!

Brian Gleeson is a Passionist priest, and a member of the Passionist community in Endeavour Hills, Melbourne.