BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr)


*2 Kg 5: 14 – 17, 2 Tim 2: 8 – 13, Lk 17: 11 – 19.

It is not all faith that saves. Some faith are merely theoretical (eg doctrinal faith). It is necessary to have the right doctrines. But you may have the right doctrines and still go to hell; Some faith are utilitarian (exploitative). Some believe just in order to succeed in getting what they want. Some are salutary and only these can lead to salvation – only the faith that takes you to Jesus in thanksgiving. This is the kind of faith we want to talk about today.

CASE STUDY OF NAAMAN: ‘So he went and emmersed himself 7 times in the Jordan as Elisha had told him to do’. And that is faith – believing in the Word of God from the minister of God. This faith was confirmed immediately through healing. And Naaman said: ‘Now I know that there is no God anywhere on earth except in Israel’. He then made an offering in Thanksgiving. The man of God said: ‘I will accept nothing’.
CASE STUDY OF THE 10 LEPERS: Today’s gospel, as a follow up from last Sunday’s, narrows down on the phenomenon of faith manifesting sacramentally and practically in Thanksgiving. 10 lepers (Jewish and Samaritan) were united in their misery in prayerful faith and received immediate sacramental healing but were not united in thankful faith. Only one of them ‘turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself prostrate at the feet of Jesus and thanked him’. Jesus lamented that only one came back, and he told him: ‘Your faith has saved you’. The rest didn’t receive spiritual healing (inner conversion and the Spirit of thanksgiving).

In both stories (1st and 3rd readings), there is the role of the ministers of the sacraments, the sacraments /sacramentals and the need for Thanksgiving and detachments from the dividends of Thanksgiving. Different sacramentals, like holy water, make present the good will (grace) of God, Wis 16: 8, Zech 12: 10 at the time and point it is needed.
– As Naaman comes face to face with the mystery of sacramental healing from God, he asks for some quantities of sand so that he can worship God with Hebrew soil as point of contact when he returns home. Is this idolatry?

As only the Samaritan leper returned to thank God (eucharistia), many Christians don’t return after their daily miracles to give God all the glory. Many don’t go deeper after receiving divine healing. They only come back for another ‘bread and fish’, Jn 6 rather than proper Eucharistic Adoration.
God uses his ministers as mere instruments: ‘We hold this treasure in earthenware vessels but the immensity of the power is God’s not ours’, 2 Cor 4: 7. We should therefore accept nothing: no praise, no reward.

1. DETACHMENT: The greatest lesson in the 1st reading is that inspite of Naaman’s good intentions to show his gratitude with gifts for the man of God (whether sowing seed for the future or reaping seed (thanksgiving or testimony for the past) the man of God remained detached from his money. When his servant, Gehazi fell for it, he carried the leprosy. God forbid that many men of God should carry people’s leprosy due to greed and obsession with ‘tithe money’.

2. DIVINE EXPECTATIONS: The 2nd lesson from the grateful Samaritan’s return for Thanksgiving is that we are expected to thank God in all situations, Phil 4: 6; in affliction for ‘afflictions are but shadows of God’s wings’, Rom 5: 3, in sorrows for ‘Blessed are those who mourn’, Matt 5: 5; even in death for ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’, 1 Cor 15: 55. We are expected as Christians ‘to live by faith and not by sight’, 2 Cor 5: 7. According to Vima Dasan, ‘No gift is spiritually ours, till we have thanked the giver – our God’. Many of us have prayed to God when calamity threatened us but have forgotten to return to praise God after the threat had been taken away.
3. NEED FOR THE HEALING MINISTRY: We need healing in the Church and Christianity is not authentic without it, Mk 16: 18, Lk 4: 18 – 30; but healing that will produce the right results – thankful faith, 2 Cor 9: 8 (Eucharistic worshippers), not wandering faith (Christian wanderers hobnobing from one healing center to another). God does not actually need our thanks but we need it in order to be genuinely his children.
4. PROPER DEVOTION TO THE EUCHARIST: Christ’s gift of the Eucharist (sacrament of Thanksgiving), is our Achilles heels and we must be careful never to abuse it. It is the new covenant of love and gratitude, Lk 22: 20. According to Vima Dasan: ‘God has two dwellings; one in heaven, another in a grateful heart’. We need to rediscover Jesus in our lives like the grateful Samaritan leper. Physical and financial wealth is not enough. We need the life of Thanksgiving – the Eucharistic life.

X-ray the daily Liturgy of the Mass and you will see Thanksgiving in praxis.
– The Penitential rites only prepare us to be worthy for this Thanksgiving.
– The Liturgy of the Word exposes to us the right motive for Thanksgiving.
– The Liturgy of the Eucharist ushers in the crux of the matter as the priest says: ‘Lift up your hearts.. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God… It is right and our duty….’
– We just need more faith, more joy and more spirit of Thanksgiving during Mass.
– We need better choir and band to lead us in praise worship especially during the Mass. Only the spirituality of Thanksgiving and Adoration can restore the Catholic Liturgy to its rightful esoteric level of worship. In every Catholic mass, another ‘Samaritan leper’ returns to give thanks to his master Jesus for the miracle of his salvation. Let’s take the mass more seriously. Happy Sunday dear friends!

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