Browsing Reflections

Fr. Jo's Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Yr C, October 9, 2022

A newly elected mayor of a small town sought the support of stakeholders in his constituency. He’d heard much about the priest of the city’s small Catholic Church and invited him to dinner in one local restaurant to which the priest obliged with gratitude. As the food arrived, the mayor pulled his silverware and started eating. The priest asked, “Don’t you say some prayer of thanks before eating?” The mayor retorted: “There’s no need to thank anyone, except perhaps me, for paying for the food.” He added: “After paying for the food, it becomes mine and I just dig in.” The priest said, “Sounds like what my dog Sharp would do. She digs in, once she sees her food.” You can imagine what an exciting evening they had.

Many in our society behave like Sharp. They believe everything that came their way was a result of their hard work. By their power they had loving parents who didn’t abandon them in pursuit of alcohol and drugs. Their hard work made them American citizens instead of Sudanese or Afghans or Syrians. By their hard work they earned eyes to see, feet to walk, intelligence and beauty, which the lazy people lack. Don’t you see that it’s easy to grow accustomed to the blessings that surround us and forget to give thanks?

  Today’s Gospel presents ten lepers, nine of whom were Jews, and one a Samaritan of Gentile descent. At the time of Jesus, leprosy was the most ugly and dreaded disease, consigning its sufferers to a new social condition as outcasts. A Jew who suffered from leprosy became socially speaking a gentile; hence, leprosy was the factor behind the togetherness that the Jewish lepers felt with the Samaritan in their company. Calamity often unites people so they forget differences. If a natural disaster occurs and animals run for dear life, tigers, lambs and rabbits, raccoons and cats can congregate at some safe ground in peace with each other. One of the lessons of 9/11 was how quickly and closely it united the Democrats and the Republicans so they passed bills that would otherwise have involved deeply contentious partisan battles. 

Jesus heard the cries of these lepers and came to their aid. No sooner had they found themselves healed than their differences set in. Perhaps, the Samaritan was reminded that he couldn’t join the now ‘clean Jews’ to the temple. Their bodies might have been healed but they still carried the stench of division in race and creed. Leprosy was just only one of the problems that the Samaritan had, and perhaps the least. His deeper social situation remained—a gentile, an outcast, with his skin color, language and nationality. Luke’s motif in this Gospel account was that the gentile is one whom God receives without consideration of social, religious or any other status. While the now healed leprous Jews went to their temple priest, the Samaritan returned to the one who embodies the TEMPLE and the PRIESTHOOD—the incarnate Son of God. He showed himself with thanks to the high priest of the new covenant, who alone could sign him off as totally redeemed. The Lord looked out to him as a member of the human community, not as Asian, Hispanic, European or African.

St. Paul asks: “What do you have that you have not received?” (I Cor 4:7). It’s not by our making that we’re born strong or weak, beautiful or less so, rich or poor; hence, thanksgiving and praise might be the most lacking thread in our prayer tapestry. A spiritual author notes: “gratitude draws benefits, and the benefactor loves to be reminded of his bounty.” We owe gratitude for God’s many blessings. The Mass is the most potent way to thank God, given its name Eucharistia, which means, “Thanksgiving.” When someone stops attending Mass claiming she’s busy with stuff; she’ll be like the nine lepers who so wanted to return quickly to a busy life after their healing that they ignored their healer. Be like Naaman and the Samaritan, and give thanks for all God’s benefits.

Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo


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