October 9, 2022 – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/100922.cfm)
The common belief among many Jews in Biblical times was that God was only for them. Yahweh chose them to be His people and thus, it was understood that the Lord God would only favor them and no other peoples except them. This belief made them exclusive to the point that outsiders are unwelcomed. More than this, God was as if being monopolized by the people and not wanting the Lord to be outside. This belief proved to be problematic and caused a lot of divisions, hatred and indifference among the people.
Such form of monopoly can also be present and creeping even in our culture today as Christians among our groups and religious organizations. Like for example, there was a choir-group in a small parish who seemed to be so exclusive and trying to monopolize their services for weddings, funerals and even birthday events in the community. There were even particular songs they claimed that only them should sing and no other groups. They went further by advertising their choir group to the people to advance their singing services. As a result, such actions caused divisions and unnecessary conflicts and tensions in the Parish Community. Their exclusivity and monopoly become toxic.
This belief and attitude of our heart, indeed, not just limit us but also limit God to be God. Our exclusivity and monopolizing attitude could make us unwelcoming and horribly indifferent towards others.
This is something that the readings we have today on this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time are trying to convey to us that God is without borders and our Church and all our communities cannot be exclusive and cannot monopolize God. So, allow me now to journey with you through our readings and see how God calls us today.
In the first reading from the Second Book of Kings, Naaman who was a commander of a Syrian Army, went to Elisha to be cleansed from leprosy. Naaman was first told about Elisha by his captured-slave, a young girl from Israel. Naaman who was very desperate listened to her and went to Elisha. For the Hebrews at this time, their belief told them that this foreigner did not deserve to be cleansed of leprosy because he was different and an enemy. Yet, though it was not directly through Elisha, Naaman was cleansed as he was instructed by the prophet to plunge into the Jordan river seven times.
This was something very significant here. Elisha was telling something very important. He did not even touch Naaman but only instructed him. Elisha wanted Naaman to realize the power and grace of God directly working in Naaman. Naaman understood this, hence, he was grateful for that encounter with the Lord. The gratitude of Naaman was overflowing and was transformed into action through his new found faith in God. Though Elisha refused to accept his gift, yet, Naaman in response worship the Lord from then on.
Moreover, today’s passage in the Gospel of Luke tells us also of another healing of a group of despised people, the lepers like Naaman. There were 10 of them who asked Jesus’ mercy so that they will be cleansed. Nine were Jews and one was a Samaritan. People won’t come near them for fear of contamination. This was the reason why they stood at a distance and did not dare to come near. Here, we can already notice the indifference among the people against them. These lepers were unwanted and unwelcomed, believed to be cursed by God.
However, as the 10 lepers were on their way to the priest as instructed by Jesus, they were healed and cleansed from leprosy. This is where we find the turn of events and a seemingly more faces of animosity and indifference. Only one of the ten came back to give thanks to God for the grace of healing received. The nine did not, as Jesus also wondered. Well, we can also suspect that the nine Jewish lepers, they must have not believed that the Samaritan among them will also be healed and cleansed. It must be still in their hearts that bitterness and exclusivity.
Upon seeing the Samaritan who was also healed, they must have felt bad and turned bitter believing that the Samaritan did not deserve such grace. This could be the reason why they forgot to give thanks to God. Their heart must be heavy and could not accept the reality that God also graces even non-Jews.
However, God is not limited to any group of people. No one can monopolize the grace of God or claim that God is theirs alone because God remains faithful to all. Yes, God is faithful to all humanity and to all His creatures. This is what Paul reminds us in his second letter to Timothy. Paul who was already old and was in prison at this time reminded his friend Timothy, of God’s faithfulness even when we become unfaithful to the Lord.
Thus, on this Sunday there are at least two points that I would like you to dwell.
First, God is without borders. Meaning, we do not have the monopoly of God and of God’s grace. This invites us then to be more faithful to our identity as Catholics, which basically means, universal or inclusive. Thus, let not our differences become a reason to be indifferent with one another, or become hostile with each other. We are all brothers and sisters, no one should be left alone and be apart from God’s family.
Second, let our gratitude transform to active faith. Naaman’s gratitude made him worship God and the healed Samaritan Leper’s gratitude made him to give thanks to the Lord. So, let also our gratitude to the Lord become an expression of faith that recognizes God’s inclusive presence and grace to all. Hence, let our faith become inclusive and not discriminating. Let our faith gathers, not divides. Let our faith generates understanding and love, not hostility and apathy to those who are different from us. Kabay pa.