YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “Then one of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.” (Luke 17:15)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: Luke 17:11-19
“A 92 year-old petite, well-poised and proud lady is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock. Her hair is fashionably coifed and her make-up perfectly applied even though she is legally blind. Today she left her home of three-quarters of a century to move into a nursing home following the recent passing of her husband of seventy years. After waiting patiently in the lobby of the healthcare facility, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.
“As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, an aide provided a visual description of her room, including the new lace curtains that had just been hung at her window. ‘I love it,’ she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. ‘But Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room yet. Just wait.’ ‘That doesn’t have anything to do with it,’ replied the old woman.
“‘Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged. It’s how I arrange my mind. I’ve already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice: I can spend the day lying in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work; or I can get out of bed and be thankful for the parts that do work.
“‘Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away just for this time in my life. Honey, old age is like a bank account: you withdraw from what you put in. So, my advice to you, young lady, would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories. And thank you for your part in helping to fill my memory bank. As you can see, I’m still depositing.’” (Original source unknown)
In the familiar gospel passage we hear today, Jesus, upon entering a village, encounters ten lepers who ask for healing. With the simple words, “Go show yourselves to the priests,” (Luke 17:14) off they went. “Then one of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.” (Luke 17:15)
It seems that only one of the lepers, the one who returned to Jesus with gratitude, actually realized he’d been healed. Not so unlike Mrs. Jones in the nursing home: she was probably one of the few who on subsequent mornings awoke with gratitude in her heart. Though she had all the aches and pains that every other resident suffered, she consciously chose to look beyond them.
Even more, though, these two stories, one from the gospel, one more contemporary, beg us to ask a deeper question: what is the difference between curing and healing?
Today’s gospel passage states that Jesus healed the lepers. While cure has to do with the alleviation of some bodily ailment, it is solely a physical change. Healing, though, goes so much farther, touching on a radical change of heart, mind and soul. One who is cured of an ailment will surely succumb to other ailments in the course of the human journey. This is the natural order of things, and for most of us, a string of ailments will serve as steppingstones to heaven’s doorway. Sickness cannot be avoided.
What one chooses to do with sickness is the question, and this is where healing is possible. It seems that wise Mrs. Jones had already learned this lesson well. No longer did she pray for a cure for bodily aches and pains; rather, her prayer was for healing, asking God to assist her in recalling a lifetime of blessings as, in the failing of her body, her thankful spirit was making its way home to the source of all blessings.