28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The account of the ten lepers is a very familiar Gospel passage and, as you know, it is important to resist the temptation to allow our minds to glaze over the parts of Scripture that we all know so well.  Sacred Scripture is the inspired Word of God.  God wants to speak to you and to me through the Scriptures, but we have to have ears that are open to listening and hearts that are open to receiving the grace that God wants to give to us through them.

There are several senses, or layers of meaning, within Scripture.  Whenever we read Scripture, we can look at it from different angles.  The first and most basic of these senses is the literal sense.  When we read the Gospels, we know that the Gospels give us historical, factual account of what Jesus Christ really did and what He really said.  The literal meaning of today’s Gospel passage is that Jesus miraculously healed ten lepers and then only one of they returned to thank Him.

When we look at the literal sense of Scripture, we can dig more deeply into the passage by looking at the larger context, learning about the historical background and the laws and customs of the day, etc.  For example, in today’s Gospel, we know that leprosy was a dreaded, deadly disease.  We can learn about leprosy from the Old Testament.  The book of Leviticus, for example, tells us that anyone who became infected with leprosy had to live outside of the community; lepers were not allowed into the city for fear that they would infect others.  Leprosy was so contagious that lepers were not even allowed to come close to others; they had to yell out to anyone approaching in order to let them know not to get too close.  That is why the lepers in today’s Gospel did not come up to Our Lord, but stood at a distance and cried out from afar.  Furthermore, we know that part of the Jewish law required the priests to pronounce someone “clean” or free from leprosy if they were healed.  That is why Jesus sent the lepers to show themselves to the priests.

Besides the literal sense, there are also various spiritual senses of Scripture.  The spiritual senses of Scripture do not negate the literal sense: they are based on it.  One of the ways to look for the spiritual sense of Scripture is to try to find out how it applies to us.  You have to ask yourself: What is God saying to you through this Scripture passage?  One of the things that should jump out at us from today’s Gospel passage is the importance of gratitude.  Our Lord praised the Samaritan for returning to thank Him for his restored health.  We often ask God for things; how often do we stop to give Him thanks?  It is good to give Him thanks for answered prayers; it is also good to thank God for all the many blessings that we have in our lives.  It is easy to complain; we can be tempted to focus on what we don’t have.  It is easy to focus on our sufferings and our worries.  We ought to ask God for the things that we need: both the little things and for the small things.  But don’t forget to also thank God for the blessings that are in your life.  If we focus only on the bad things in our lives or in our world, we can be tempted to become discouraged and to despair.  God does not want us to become overwhelmed by life’s difficulties; He wants us to turn to Him and entrust ourselves into His most merciful hands.  We are not bearing our burdens alone; Jesus is right beside us every step of the way.  He told us to take up our cross, but He didn’t tell us that we are on our own: He told us to take up our cross and follow Him.  We are not alone.  God is always with us He thinks of us always even when we are not thinking of Him and even when we forget to thank Him for all that He does for us: He is always there waiting for us to turn to Him.

Another thing that this Gospel passage says to us is that we are to bring all of our troubles to Jesus.  We ought to bring to Him all that is on our hearts and ask for His grace, for His strength, for His healing.  If there is grave sin on your soul, go and show yourself to the priests.  Make frequent use of the Sacraments: especially the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist, and the Sacrament of Confession.  Jesus wants to heal our hearts; He wants to refresh us.  He wants us to have life and have it more abundantly.  Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)  Jesus Christ gave us the Sacraments; He wants to pour His grace into our souls through them, but we have to come and receive them and we have to receive them worthily.

In the Upper Room, Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive shall be forgiven.  Jesus gave the Apostles the power to bind and loose us from our sins and the Apostles have shared that sacred power with their successors, the bishops, and the bishops have shared it with priests.

Through the Sacraments, we receive God’s grace; through the Sacraments, we are united with Almighty God in a most intimate way.  Thank God for the graces that He gives to you through the Sacraments.  Make frequent use of them.  Jesus Christ gave us the Sacraments so that we might make use of them and thereby grow closer to Him.  Furthermore, the Church asks us to go to Confession at least once a year.  If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we need to go more often than that.  We need God’s grace in order to live the way that He wants us to live; we need His grace to love the way that He created us to love.  Make frequent use of the Sacraments and give thanks to God for the great things that He does for us through them.

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