From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
October 9 – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
We find ourselves in the middle of the story about Naaman, a Syrian general who has fought and defeated the Israelites. He seems to be in total control and on top of the world. But he has a problem he cannot solve. He has a severe skin disease that is disfiguring for him and referred to as leprosy. Despite all his power and prestige, he cannot solve this problem. As it worsens it invades his life and saps control from him. He likely tried everything to cure it, but nothing works – and the leprosy will ostracize him from family and community alike. Elisha, who is a Jewish prophet is summoned to help. He advises Naaman to plunge himself into the river seven times to be cleansed and cured by God. He does – and he is! It took humility for Naaman to follow the prophet’s words. But he was desperate and could not save himself from his affliction. Having been cured, he recognized the truth, the mercy and the love of God and did him homage. He was full of gratitude to God for the gift of healing he had received.
How many of us have found ourselves confronted by challenges in life that have taken us to our knees. Most of us are graced with success to varying degrees. We are blessed with riches of all types – beyond imagination. And yet, for all our power and success, most of us like Naaman, have faced those moments when our world seems to collapse in on us. It is then that we have a choice – the only choice when all others disappear – to recognize that it is only God who has the answers to our challenges. Only He can save us from our misery. When we come before Him in humility, asking for his mercy and seeking his help, he rescues us from our suffering. Just as Naaman offered his thanks to first Elisha and then to God, we too need to be grateful for God’s intervention in our lives at our times of greatest need. Our gratitude should extend well beyond the big events though. For as we look around every day, we should see the many blessings God has bestowed upon us. Humility should call us to recognize it is only God who has the answers to our needs and it is by his mercy, his grace and his saving power that we are blessed every day. Our response should be one of gratitude and thanksgiving.
In our gospel we hear the story of ten lepers cured, nine of whom failed to return to give thanks. To the one who did, Jesus says, “Stand up and go, your faith has saved you!” Why did the other nine not return? We don’t know. Perhaps they were angry they were sick in the first place. Maybe they weren’t sure they were healed permanently. Maybe they were coming but had not made it back yet. It is easy to get wrapped up in wondering about the nine when our focus should be on the one. When we focus on the nine, we fall into the very trap they fell into – failure to have gratitude for the blessings which are bestowed upon us; recognizing where all those blessings come from. Each day, we should begin in humility, asking God to reveal his will for our life that day. As we go through the day, we should offer thanks for every blessing that comes our way, not allowing the distraction of the evil one.
As Vincentians, we are often times confronted with a neighbor who does not show gratitude for the help they have received. We don’t know why they do not show the gratitude. There may be any number of reasons or hurts they are dealing with. We need to pray for them. We need to be thankful and rejoice for and with those who do show gratitude. Most of all, we need to be thankful for the blessings God has bestowed upon us, the grace he gives us to share those blessings and the healing he does in our lives. Each time we come to receive the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, we are cleaned, healed and nourished by our Lord. As we minister to others, we should do so with faith that God will lead us in the right decisions. We must recognize that the good we do is a gift from God to us. How often do we remember to give thanks for these opportunities to be his healing hands to others who in turn heal our sores as well? How do I show gratitude for the many blessings in my life?
Lord Jesus, increase my awareness of your loving actions in our lives which allow me to minister to others. Increase my willingness to submit to your guidance in the actions I take in ministry. Let me seek that guidance through prayer and discernment. Let me call out to you in faith as the lepers did. Let me move forward in faith. And let me return to you in thanksgiving for the directions you lead me in. I pray all of this in your name. Amen