Fr. Baskar Anandan
The Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 9, 2016 | Readings
Adversity is not liked by any of us. We try to get rid of it. “I exercise. I don’t smoke or take drugs. I watch what I eat. I get enough rest. I avoid stress. I limit my drinking to an occasional glass of wine. I take care of my health. So, why did this happen to me?”
That question also encompasses our relationship with God. “I pray. I go to Mass on Sunday. I do my best to live as a Christian. I help those in need. I’m involved with my parish. I try to be a good parent, a good spouse, a good son or daughter. Granted I’m not perfect, but I’m no big sinner. So why did this happen to me?” But adversity does provide us with a few opportunities. This lesson we learn from today’s gospel.
An Opportunity to be United
“A friend is a friend at all times,
and a brother is born for the time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
Adversity makes us know who really is our brother, sister and friend. It unites all the afflicted. It breaks away all the barriers and prejudices. For instance, the Jews and the Samaritans never had dealings with one another. Though Samaria was located in the central part of Judea, both peoples were hostile to one another whenever their paths crossed. In today’s gospel to our surprise a Samaritan is found among the Jews. It is surely the adversity of leprosy that united them. Suffering really brings us together. Above all, the suffering of Jesus Christ brought all of us together to march towards the Father in Heaven.
An Opportunity to Seek for God’s Mercy and to be Merciful
The ten lepers in the gospel saw Jesus and made a bold request. They did not ask for healing but instead asked for mercy. They felt that the mercy of Jesus could bring back everything. God our heavenly Father is ever merciful. The word mercy literally means “sorrowful at heart.” But mercy is something more than compassion or heartfelt sorrow at another’s misfortune. Compassion empathizes with the sufferer. But mercy goes further – it removes suffering. A merciful person shares in another’s misfortune and suffering as if it were his or her own. And such a person will do everything in his or her power to dispel that misery. That is what Jesus did to those ten lepers. Mercy is also connected with justice. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a great teacher and scripture scholar says, “Mercy does not destroy justice, but is a certain kind of fulfillment of justice. … Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; (and) justice without mercy is cruelty.” Pardon without repentance negates justice. “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). We are also called to be merciful. Whenever we are merciful we are justified in the sight of God.
An Opportunity to be Grateful
“And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:15-16)
When we realize the mercy of God which He has been showering on us, it becomes an opportunity to be grateful to Him. Gratitude builds up relationships and keeps nurturing them. We are called to be grateful to God just as the Samaritan in the gospel was. Whenever we are grateful to God, our relationship with God is strengthened and nurtured. If we do not recognize and appreciate the mercy and help shown to us, we will be ungrateful and unkind towards others. Ingratitude is forgetfulness or a poor return for kindness received. Ingratitude easily leads to lack of charity and intolerance towards others, as well as to other vices, such as complaining, grumbling, discontentment, pride, and presumption. How often have we been ungrateful to our parents, pastors, teachers, and neighbors? Do we express gratitude to God for his abundant help and mercy towards us and are we gracious, kind, and merciful towards our neighbor in their time of need and support?
Lord Jesus, may I regard my adversity as an opportunity to be one with the suffering people, an opportunity to seek after your mercy and an opportunity to be grateful to you. Amen.