St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Trinity XIV : Fr Tony Hpgg

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 A grandmother walks with her young grandson along the beach, he dressed in his finest clothes from his hat to his shoes, on a nice summer day. Suddenly a massive wave crashes down on them and the grandson is carried off to sea. The grandmother looks up to the sky and pleads:
“Oh Lord, if only you will bring back my beloved grandson, I will be forever grateful and will spend the rest of my days praising your name.” Suddenly another wave crashes down on the beach, and the grandson is washed into the shore, drenched, but perfectly healthy. The grandmother embraces him, checks him out, and then looks back up at the sky; “So: she says to the Lord, “where’s his hat?”
One could say that the overriding theme of today’s gospel could well be- ‘Well there’s gratitude for you.’ The case of the healed Samaritan is a case of Jesus healing 10 lepers without any need for ceremony or physical action. He tells them to show themselves to the Priest – a necessary step for healed lepers to enable then to re-enter the community. They become cleansed as they do so. Even though all 10 clearly recognized Jesus and His ministry for the Lord, 9 of them simply accept the healing without a word of thanks, either to Jesus or to God for their miraculous healing of the scourge of leprosy.
We know that it is only the Samaritan, considered heretics by the Jews, who knows to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to the Lord. For us the lesson is clear – we risk becoming complacent with our relationship with God, and forgetting the origin of the blessings we enjoy. We demonstrate ATTITUDE rather than GRATITUDE. Whatever the Lord does, we begin to feel we were owed in the first place- and then start to wonder why we didn’t get more. Is it that we too often look up at the sky and ask, “So, Lord, where’s the hat?”
There is also another message for us – in Jesus’ ministry, we hear at times about Samaritans who respond more openly to his call. He makes the Samaritan the paragon of brotherly love in the most famous of his parables. The great commission of Jesus for all of us, as it was to the first Apostles, is to save the world in accordance with his teaching- to love our enemies as well as our neighbours. To spread the Word of salvation so that all may have life in the Lord, whatever their background. It is a reminder that we do not own the
Lord; all belong to him who choose it. Rather than act with envy or sullenness, we should embrace those and show them the path to the Lord. The church is urged to follow that path so that all who come to him will feel the cleansing power of the Lord.
If the Church keeps people far off it is an admission of defeat that it- you and me- possesses no power to change them. This is true, of course, if Christ is not given his rightful place in the Church. But if those who are afar off are conscious of Christ, and not of the Pharisees, looking at them from the Church gate, some of them will be encouraged to draw near, and in the welcome which follows, will be changed. Not that they will be perfect, but just as the lepers were healed in contact with Christ, so too can all who draw close to him, ourselves, and the stranger at the gate, be healed with contact with Christ and the healing power of prayer and sacrament. Indeed often Jesus reminds us that those who are most far off who do draw near and find healing are most grateful. You will remember what Jesus said of the woman who anointed his feet, and much to the amazement of Simon, the Pharisee. He who is forgiven most loves most. Jesus was not a Pharisee, that is a separatist, and the Church should follow the Lord it professes to serve. To be a place and a people open to forgiving most and therefore loving most; a place
and a people concerned for the welfare of society and of their Church. At the heart of today’s parable is just that – the lepers wished to meet Christ, and they knew he would not ostracize them- they knew he would heal them. The reason Christ makes that contact is because from it will come the healing process, but sadly for 9 of them, they did not realize that healing is not just a physical matter, but at the very heart of it, is the spiritual blessings and growth which flows from it, and that they failed to even see, never mind acknowledge and say thank you.
We know that the Samaritan knew that and he understands the fullness of healing in all dimensions. He knew that from the moment of healing his life would never be the same again; he was grateful for what he had received, but, and this is really important – he did not ask for the hat, and neither should we.


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