28th Sunday Year C - Homily 2


Homily 2 - 2013

Today’s Gospel has triggered a sort of stream of consciousness reaction on my part.  All the lepers were healed; but something more happened to the Samaritan one, something that he probably did not realise.  Not only was he healed, but his faith had saved him.  His faith had saved him …  Did the Jewish lepers not have faith? Certainly the disciples, and any others around, would have presumed they did.  Jews were proud of their faith, proud of the unique purity of their faith.  Samaritans were the heretics.

Stand up, your faith has saved you!  What did Jesus mean when he said the Samaritan leper was saved – and that his faith had made the difference? Are there different kinds of faith? different levels of faith? Apparently.  What prompted Jesus’ observation was that the man turned back praising God at the top of his voice.  I think that faith has to do with relationship.  Perhaps it is better understood as trusting, even entrusting – like what two adults do when they truly love each other.  Perhaps being saved is what happens to me when I truly love God, truly trust God, truly entrust myself to God.

The Samaritan leper turned back praising God at the top of his voice, threw himself at the feet of Jesus, and thanked him.  He thanked Jesus.  He praised God.  I think that praising is a step beyond thanking.  When I thank another, there is a bit of me in the background: the other has done something for me – and so I thank her or him.  But praising focuses simply on the other, on the simple goodness, beauty and wonder of the other.  I let my self slip off the radar – and become fascinated by, absorbed in, the other.  From the joy of being healed, the leper went on to thank Jesus, and then got carried away beyond that to praise God.

I would love to be like that – to be carried away beyond myself and to be absorbed in the goodness of God.  And, according to Jesus, faith is the way.  I do not have to wait for it just to happen.  I can practise trusting God at any time, entrusting myself to God – sensitizing myself to the pervading presence of the goodness of God.  It is everywhere.  But I need enlightened eyes to see it.

A big obstacle to all that is an attitude growing in our culture that somehow we “deserve” what we have.  Do you notice the advertisements?  ‘You deserve what you have’; or, more likely, you deserve what you do not have – so need to buy.  I have read that a lot of the younger generation are growing up with a “sense of entitlement”: society owes “it” to them, whatever “it” is.  It is easy to point the finger.  I think we can all be infected to a certain degree.

A sense of entitlement is the opposite of the spirit of simple praise – praise of the goodness of the gifting God.  The sense of entitlement robs us of the sheer joy of recognising everything as gift.  It makes us envious, angry and eventually more unhappy.  Worse, it can lead us to think that others do not deserve what we have.  I often wonder if that is what is behind our national paranoia and obsession with our “sovereign borders”.

Praising the sheer goodness of God, the sheer gratuity of everything - flowing, as it does, from our growing capacity to trust God and to entrust ourselves to God – leads to the ever-deepening experience of being saved.  It was not only the Samaritan whom Jesus delighted to save.  He wants to save us – and names our faith as the key.

Eucharist means thanks.  And that is what we do as we gather.  But, as you have no doubt noticed, our thanks are shot through with praise.  “Through him, with him and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory is yours …"