Sunday, October 2, 2016

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 9, 2016

First Reading Commentary
Naaman was well respected by his servants.  He was a general of the army of the king of Syria but unfortunately had leprosy.  A letter was sent from the king of Syria to the king of Israel requesting that Naaman pay a visit to the prophet Elisha to be healed of his leprosy.  Naaman went to Elisha's house but Elisha sent a messenger to him telling him to plunge into the Jordan seven times.  Naaman, at first was angry because Elisha did not personally greet him but Naaman's servants convinced him to follow the instructions given by the messenger.  After these events is where this Reading begins. 
Saint Ambrose relates plunging seven times into the Jordan as a signification of baptism in which we are cleansed from the seven capital sins.  This miracle was to have great significance as it prefigures the call of the Gentiles to the blessings of the Messiah.  Christ confirms this in Saint Luke's Gospel when He says: "There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them were cleansed but Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:27).  To Naaman's credit, he recognized Elisha's God as the One true God. 
Elisha refused to accept any gifts offered by Naaman.  The holiness of Almighty God is made apparent by Elisha's detachment from temporal possessions.  Acceptance of gifts by the prophets was not uncommon but Elisha wanted to show Naaman that God's grace cannot be purchased. 
Two mule-loads of earth would be used to make bricks and thus build an altar so that Naaman may worship God according to the Almighty's precepts.  This Reading teaches us that all nations and races are invited to God's salvation.
Second Reading Commentary
The opening words: "Remember Jesus Christ" really captures a marvelous understanding of human nature.  As much as we would like to have our Lord and Savior glued to our hearts and minds perpetually, it is in moments of friction and chaos, moments such as these that often lead to sin because we allow ourselves to be swayed by the whirlwind of the moment and thus take our focus and thoughts off Jesus.  Saint Paul shares with us such moments as these in an even more severe way by his description of being chained and treated like a prisoner.  But Paul, through perseverance and the grace of God is able to find communion with Christ; and what he writes in the opening verse is strikingly similar to Christ's experience as Man.  Paul, even in chains and imprisoned proclaims that the Gospel continues to spread because the Word of God is not chained and is able to persevere even through a suffering vessel; but also our Lord's power is not limited to one instrument. 
The closing verses are possibly extracted from an ancient Christian hymn.  When dying to passions Christians are crucified and die with Christ.  With Christ they are buried and from the waters of baptism arise with Him and are clothed with Him.  By wearing the garment of Christ a faithful Christian's life is also designed to be strikingly similar to that of Jesus: Proclaiming the Gospel either by word or deed, the sufferings endured both emotional and physical, and in a sense, depending on the severity of suffering, a Christian can be imprisoned either literally or by means of an incapacitating illness; while bearing it all with the faith in knowing that eternal salvation is awaiting them through Christ Jesus.  This is the design but as we all know, not always the reality.  Saint Paul and all the saints are ideal examples of overcoming adversity by finding a mystical intimacy with Christ in times of calamity.
Gospel Commentary
Like the First Reading, this Gospel shows that the blessings of the Almighty are not limited to the Jewish people.  Jesus is obeying the Mosaic Law in His approach to dealing with these ten lepers as it written in the Pentateuch: "This is the rite of the leper, when he is to be cleansed, he shall be brought to the priest" (Leviticus 14:2). 
In this story and in the Law one can sense a foreshadowing of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as leprosy represents the uncleanness of sin and a priest is required to be once again declared clean.  In defense of our Catholic faith, this story would seem to suggest that to be washed clean of our sins, Christ and a priest are required; it's not that Christ alone isn't sufficient, but the evidence certainly intimates that this is the way our Redeemer architected the process of reconciliation.  This is made even more apparent in Saint John's Gospel (cf. John 20:22-23).  The mercy of God to all His creation is revealed here. 
Christ's message of salvation was first revealed to His own people but not accepted by them.  This is represented by the other nine lepers who were cured but did not return to offer gratitude to the Messiah.  The only one to return to offer gratitude is a Samaritan, representing the Gentiles who are the extension of Christ's saving grace; and the Samaritan's gratitude symbolizes the acceptance of Christ as the Messiah by the Gentiles.  The Church's official teaching is that salvation is universal.  The Catechism teaches that all are implicated in Adam's sin, and so, as one man's trespass led to the condemnation of all, so one Man's [Christ] act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all (cf. CCC 402). 
As Catholics, we have to be careful not to become part of the group of nine who never returned to offer gratitude.  In the pre-Conciliar Church it was a common practice to remain in the church building after Mass to offer thanksgiving in private, even if only for a few moments.  And of course, the Finger of God on our Church has brought forth so many extraordinary examples of sanctity, like Saint Louis de Montfort, who would remain in deep prayer after Mass for a couple of hours. 
Jesus is our Savior and our Food Who will sustain us and carry us into eternal life.  The Eucharist is a great, selfless gift given by Christ to His Church.  But repetition can lead to a disposition that is something less than edifying; which is why Catholics have to be on guard to avoid having the daily or weekly reception of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ become something that is taken for granted.  "Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!"