BY: Fr. Gerald Musa



Introduction: Many preachers today will preach about the importance of thanksgiving. It is not hard to know why this is so. Some call this Sunday ‘Thanksgiving Sunday’ or ‘Gratitude Sunday.’ If you call today ‘Lepers Day’ you are also correct; if you call it a day of cleansing’ you are also correct, so also if you call it the ‘day of salvation and deliverance. All these expressions and actions are in the scripture readings selected for this Sunday. There are two prominent stories in the readings: the story of Naaman the Syrian Commander and the story of the Ten Lepers who were cured by Jesus. Naaman suffered from leprosy despite his exalted position as Army Commander. He had gone from one place to the other in search of healing and found none until he came to Israel and found Elisha. The ten lepers who approached Jesus were afflicted by the same disease and found no healing until they met Jesus.

Gratitude: The attitudes of gratitude and thanksgiving that Naaman and the Samaritan leper displayed are very commendable and inspiring. Naaman came back with a camel load of gifts to express his gratitude to Elisha. The Samaritan was the only leper among the ten that came back to give thanks to Jesus. Jesus was surprised that others forgot the simple gesture of saying ‘Thank you.’ A commentator of Scriptures, Vima Dasan says God has two dwellings; one in heaven and another in a grateful heart. The letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians instructs us “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:28). In so many passages of scriptures, God encourages an attitude of gratitude. St. Bernard advises us to be grateful always to God because ‘Ingratitude dries up the source of divine favours’ (Ingratitudo fonten divinae pietatis est). I love the famous Nigerian song: What shall I offer to the Lord to make him happy? It is a humble heart; a cheerful heart and a caring heart that God accepts. A prayer of thanksgiving is the highest prayer that we can offer to God.

Beyond Thanksgiving, what else can we scoop from the readings of the Sunday?

Instruction and Cleansing: The sacrament of reconciliation, also known as penance is the way to receive healing. Jesus instructed the ten lepers to go to the priest. They obeyed his instruction and were cleansed; Elisha asked Naaman to go to the Jordan and bathe seven times. He obeyed, albeit reluctantly, but was healed. When we are in crisis and sin, we must listen to the voice of Jesus speaking to us. In our confusion, we are sometimes deaf to the instructions of Jesus and Church teachings. At the sacrament of reconciliation, the priest gives us some simple prayers to say as penance. For some people, even these simple prayers are hard to say.

Sin and Salvation: Leprosy was a very shameful disease as AIDS is in modern times. Those who suffered from leprosy were ostracized and not allowed to mingle with other people. Everyone kept a distance from them for fear of contracting the disease. In our spiritual life, the closest comparison to leprosy is sin, which separates the flow of the relationship we have with God. The healing of foreigners (The Syrian and Samaritan) by Jesus tells us that salvation is universal. In spiritual language, leprosy is a mortal sin, which only God can cleanse.

Healing and Inculturation: I observe that in the Hausa culture as it is in many other African cultures, healers do not impose fees on people. If they make demands, it is always for something small and not for many material things. These healers believe that the more money and material things you collect in exchange for healing, the more God takes away that gift from you. The attitude of Jesus and that of Elisha is synonymous with existing African customs regarding material rewards to a healer or miracle worker. Jesus once told his disciples, “You received without charge, give without charge’ (Matthew 10:8). Elisha said to Naaman, “I will accept nothing.”

So, how come to the healing ministry in the Church has become so attractive to upcoming priests and seminarians? How is it that we have not inculturated this aspect of our Christian life to fit into our local customs? How is it that we are following the pattern of new-generation churches by amassing so much personal wealth in exchange for spiritual gifts? How is it that today, many Church leaders are ready to go to any length, including ungodly ways to obtain healing powers? The pattern of new generation churches is like this: God raises a humble man and grants him spiritual gifts; he opens up a ministry that is more personal than collective; he attracts a large crowd and generates so much money; the ministry expands and branches begin to spring up; a large amount of money is invested into all kinds of business; the humble man of God becomes a millionaire and begins to dine with the rich and mighty; his attention gradually shifts from the altar to the bank and from the altar to business affairs; gradually, he begins to live in past glory as emptiness begins to set in. This emptiness is displayed in the content of his preaching and lack of zeal. Zeal for the house of the Lord becomes less than it was in the beginning. The attitude of Elisha, Paul and Jesus in the readings tells us that salvation involves selflessness and detachment from materialism. Please don’t get it wrong, money is important for any ministry to grow, but money is also the biggest distraction today. It has become more of a master than a servant.

28th Sunday/Year C; 2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19

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