28th Sunday Year C - Homily 3

Homily 3 - 2016

I hope that you are in a thoughtful mood this morning, because I would like to take you on a thoughtful expedition.

Let us start with Jesus’ comment to the cured Samaritan leper who returned to thank Jesus. After saying, “Stand up. Go on your way”, Jesus then added, “Your faith has saved you.” All up in Luke’s Gospel, there are three other occasions when Jesus explicitly says, “Your faith has saved you”. In two of them, he added the comment after he had cured people. They were the woman with the chronic issue of blood, and the blind man on the side of the Jericho road. The third instance was that of the sinful woman who had anointed Jesus’ feet, and of whom he had said to Simon the Pharisee, “Her sins must have been forgiven her, since she has loved so much.” No physical healing there at all. So salvation was obviously something other than physical healing. And in this one, all ten lepers were cured of their leprosy, but only of one did Jesus say, “Your faith has saved you”, and he was the one who had returned praising God and thanking Jesus.

So there is a distinction between being saved and being cured, though a cure can serve as a practical illustration of the deeper process of salvation that has taken place.

So, what might salvation mean? It is something that happens in this life, and no doubt carries on somehow into the next. In all four cases, Jesus associated the experience of salvation with the person’s response of faith. What is the connection? Is faith the means to, or condition for, salvation? Or might the experience of faith and the experience of salvation be the same thing? When Jesus uses the word faith, he does not mean knowing our catechism, having the correct answers, being orthodox. For Jesus, faith is trusting, trusting the other. It is entrusting oneself to... It is a relationship. A medieval author spoke of that relationship as “All that I am, just as I am, offered to all that you are, just as you are.” It is a self-emptying –  enabling a self-filling. It involves hope. It accompanies love.

My sense is that the experience of salvation is much the same. It is the experience of personal inner harmony, of profoundly fulfilling relationship – and all of it based on love. In this it would be the exact opposite to the experience of sin – which is that of deep alienation and hatred of everyone, of profound self-absorption and utter loneliness.

Perhaps the leper saw, not, Jesus cured me, rather, Jesus loved me. That is why Jesus could highlight his praising God and thanking Jesus. The leper’s focus was the Other, the goodness of God – to whom he related exuberantly.  Praising and loving are not all that different. At its purest, praise involves a fascination with the other, wonder at the sheer goodness of the other. Both include disregarding the self and transcending all self-interest. Giving thanks is much the same. It might start off from something first done to me, but then quickly moves to concentrate on the other.

Mary embodied the experience so beautifully, “My soul proclaims the glory of God and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour … because the Almighty has done great things for me – and holy is his Name.” Simply love; simply joy.

When praise becomes our spontaneous stance towards God, then we know we have become whole. Indeed, we are living the very life of the Trinity themselves, which is the total self-giving of each Person to the others, and through each other to us humans, to you and to me, and to the rest of creation, in truth and in love.

We cooperate with God in this wonderful enterprise of ongoing salvation as we warmly, unconditionally and with no exceptions relate to others; as we allow ourselves to grow in wonder; and as we deliberately take time to process the experience in meditative contemplation.