This is one of the most frustrating Gospels to encounter.  It’s so frustrating to picture these 10 people having leprosy.  10 people have this life-threatening, debilitating, highly contagious illness.  These 10 have been separated from family, from friends and practically left to die.  With little hope left, hearing that Jesus is passing through town, think about what it was they were asking for.  Unlike so many other healing scenes they don’t ask for healing, for restoration, for a miracle – but pity How others viewed them, how they viewed themselves – everything about their lives, had been re-defined by this tragic reality that they had leprosy.  They ask for pity. 

Thanks so much for stopping by to read my homily for the 28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – October 9, 2022, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments…  I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE.  May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing Sincerely in Christ – Father Jim

Yet, Jesus goes beyond commiserating… doesn’t simply feel bad for their situation and tries to offer words of comfort.  He gives them a direction “go show yourselves to the priests.”  As they do, they are cleansed, cured, restored, and healed.  And then we get to the punch line that only 1 out of the 10 returns to offer thanksgiving. You would think that having experienced such a bonafide miracle, that there wouldn’t be anything else of more importance for them to do than to offer thanksgiving.

It’s so frustrating.  What a bunch of thoughtless ingrates.  Where else, what else could they have to do after this life-threatening, debilitating, highly contagious illness has been cured?  Did they think they just naturally got better?  That it was just a coincidence that they happened to see Jesus right before they were healed????  Yeah, it must’ve been a coincidence, come to think of it, I was actually starting to feel a little better the last few days.  Were they just so imbittered from the experience, ruminating over the fact that they were sick in the first place, that they didn’t deserve to be sick so the bare minimum they had coming to them was to be rid of this illness…  and anyway, that’s not going to make up for all that suffering, all the time they lost, all the friendships and relationships that had been strained during this, all the people who had let them down and not been there for them.  Maybe they were just delirious with excitement – it was like they just won the equivalent of medical super bowls, maybe they were going to Disneyland (or the Samaritan equivalent 2,000 years ago).  Maybe they were gripped with fear and anxiety – weren’t convinced the cure was going to stick – they had been so hopeless for so long, so yeah things looked good, for now – but they didn’t want to get their hopes up too much, lest they set themselves up for disappointment again.

It’s so frustrating… I think the reason this Gospel is so frustrating is because of the old adage that what frustrates you about someone else is that it reflects things about yourself that you don’t like.  All of those scenarios, all of those emotions and responses, that came to mind as possibilities for why thanksgiving is far from their minds when it should’ve been first and foremost – is because I know I’ve been there.  I’ve been that leper… I’ve been one of those 9. I didn’t intend to be a thoughtless ingrate.  I might not have even thought that I was.  I was just so fixated on myself that at that moment, I dismissed the more important thing – namely that Jesus was near… listening… responding. Yeah, there were healings, there were storms where the winds and the tides were getting worse by the minute and I thought I’d capsize and drown – Yeah there were times when I felt guilt and shame over things that I had done and didn’t feel I could even be in God’s presence  – where I was healed, I was saved, I was forgiven – and once those moments were passed, I moved on… I forgot, I discounted the miracle, I came up with an excuse and explanation – and the deeper healing, the greater salvation, the transformative reconciliation was squandered.  Where I was one of the 9.  Maybe I’m not alone on that.

If you’re like me the good news is that as frustrating as this Gospel can be, as frustrated as we can be at the responses and those areas where it is uncomfortably relatable, the good news is that Jesus isn’t trying to shame us, embarrass us.  And He’s not frustrated with us.  Because the point of any miracle isn’t about those dramatic responses in those particular moments – but are ultimately meant to help us fall deeper in love, in trust, in confidence with Him.  With our loving Father who created us, with His son Jesus who saved us, with His Holy Spirit who continues to work miracles in and with and through each of us.

That’s why the first reading is such a great pairing with this Gospel.  We recognize how that desire for healing is not something new.  In that first reading, we hear from the Old Testament book of Kings, which comes from a period of time when the Jews had seen their kingdom divided and begin to be destroyed and pillaged by pagan forces.  Simply because the Jews had become unfaithful.  They had not honored the covenant and had not offered proper worship to the Lord God.  So here’s this non-Jewish Military leader from Syria, named Naaman.  He’s been highly successful in battle having defeated one of the tribes of Israel and taking not just some of the wealth and riches of the people, but a young girl from Israel as a servant of his.

As successful as Naaman has been, he becomes helpless when he contracts the life-threatening, debilitating, highly contagious leprosy himself.  The young Jewish girl tells Naaman about a prophet in Israel named Elisha who she knows can cure leprosy.   He’s so desperate he’s willing to listen to this slave who he’s captured and put into service, return to enemy territory, and go to someone he’s never known or heard of for help.  When he gets there, with all his entourage, Elisha doesn’t even come out to see him.   He just sends word to go to the Jordan River and wash there seven times and he would be clean.  Expecting something a bit more profound, some dramatic ritual he’s about to storm off in a huff when the young girl says to him – you came all this way, you were prepared to do something big and bold and dramatic, why wouldn’t you just listen to what the prophet says.  In other words – why not be obedient to the Lord God, and follow what He has instructed you through this prophet of His?   Which he does and he’s completely cured.  Which is where the reading picks up today.

Naaman was so stunned by the healing that he goes back to Elisha and wants to give him a gift.  Elisha refuses, saying you can’t pay me – you can’t honor me – you can’t thank me.  It wasn’t anything Elisha did, but what the Lord God has done.  So Naaman asks for “two mule-loads of earth.”  Which sounds like such a strange request.  But the reason why?  In the ancient world, they believed pagan gods could only be worshiped on native soil.  So by dredging up this earth and taking it home with him he was basically saying that the Lord God was the only one worthy of belief, the only one worthy of worship.  This man who never knew God, that he had previously had such little use or respect for God’s people has his entire worldview changed – such that he is one of a handful of conversions to God that we find in the Old Testament.  He knows he will be surrounded by those who don’t believe and wants to be clear that the Lord God and Him alone is worthy of worship, is worthy of Thanksgiving, and intends to constantly give praise for what the Lord God has done for him.


Both readings underline that thanksgiving is essential to our prayer.  As a priest, one of my promises at ordination was a daily commitment to prayer.  And because we make those promises, and because we have organized daily prayer whether its Mass or praying the liturgy of the hours, which are all great and essential, there were times that I didn’t realize I was going through the motions, where I was fulfilling my obligation, but I was distracted maybe.  I’m distracted on a good day – having ADD.  But there were times and periods when I didn’t realize how stale or routine my prayer had gotten.  I didn’t intend to take God for granted, and I didn’t set out to be inattentive or go through the motions, but I did.  It led to times when I was discouraged.  It led to moments of doubt, despair, and temptation.  There was a time when I came close to leaving the priesthood.

What has been transformative in my prayer life was when Thanksgiving became a primary essential part of it.  As part of my daily holy hour, the first thing I do is name three things that I’m thankful for, and that I want to express Gratitude to God for.  And honestly, some days I don’t want to… I might be angry or upset, I might be anxious or hurried – but I’ve kind of felt that Jesus has said to me in my prayer we can go over all of those things, that He’s happy to listen to me complain or vent on any and everything I have for him, but that He wants me to start by coming up with those three things I’m thankful for first.

And sometimes it can take 50 of those 60 minutes of that Holy Hour.   Sometimes I’m stuck trying to remember what’s something I’m thankful for today.  Sometimes I’m going through a list of things and think I’ve said those before, and they are all true, but what is something else, something different?  The point is it is not like I’m trying to impress God by being creative and original – or to pump God’s ego up or that He needs that “thank you note.”  I know He’s not withholding his grace and blessings because I forgot something.  This experience helps me to recognize just how blessed, just how many prayers have been answered, just how many miracles did occur, just how many times things looked dire and didn’t resolve in the dramatic way I wanted and prayed for but did resolve, dare I admit better than I anticipated.


All of that validates the truth that prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind or heart – but about changing ours.  Because whatever it is that I’m bringing into my prayer, whatever it is I’m wrestling with or distracted over – whether I leave that holy hour with new insight, clear answer to those things or whether things are kind of where they were when I first walked in, my heart and mind are refreshed and renewed in remembering all that God has done, all that God is doing.  That my life has been changed by Him.  That is worship.  That is what Naaman shows us.  That is what the one leper demonstrates.  And when we get to that same posture, it is then that we understand that the real miracle isn’t just when leprosy has been cured, but when our lives are focused on giving glory to God at the feet of Jesus and hearing Him remind us again and again how it is that our faith saves us.