Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Shared Homily Starter

1st reading: 2 Kings 5.14-17
Psalm 98:1,2-3ab,3cd-4 (R.2b)
2nd reading: 2 Timothy 2.8-13
Gospel: Luke 17.11-19

This Monday is Thanksgiving Day in Canada and Columbus Day in the United States.  Today’s readings relate to the act of giving thanks but could also speak indirectly to the myth of Columbus. 

Today’s first reading is a continuation of the story that began with Naaman, a member of the military elite, who suffers from leprosy, and travels from Aram to Israel to seek a cure from the prophet Elisha.  Elisha sends a messenger to tell Naaman to bathe in the Jordan River seven times.  Naaman becomes irate.  Such a demeaning task is beneath him.  To top it off, Elisha doesn’t come to him ─ a man of his station─ but sends a messenger.  Naaman’s servant, having a somewhat cooler head, reminds Naaman that had the task been harder, he would have done it, why balk because it’s easy.  So Naaman calms down and does as he was told.  This, as we used to say at the movies, is where we came in. 

In today’s reading, we catch up with Naaman, and see that when he obeys, his leprosy is cured.  Humbled, he goes to Elisha.  Elisha’s response to Naaman’s offer to pay him reminds us that all gifts come from God─ not from a priest, or a bishop, or the Pope or anyone else.  Gifts may come through them but, ultimately, God is the Giver of all Gifts. 
From Naaman’s actions, we can glean that to be healed is to do and be what we are called to do and be.  Further, we can’t earn or pay for God’s love and care for us.  It is there, if we are willing to say “yes” to it.  Unlike Naaman, we know that God is not the God of one people or dwell only in one land.  We don’t have to have mule-loads of earth to bring God home with us.  God is already there.  So this Thanksgiving and every day, let us acknowledge and be grateful for God: God in the natural world, God in each other, God in us and God all around us.

The second reading suggests that faith, calls for action on our part.  We have to look beyond a faith that confines God to Jesus’ work of forgiving our sins, beyond a faith where God is concerned primarily with individuals and their personal faults.  Our faith should tell us, as Sallie McFague writes, that─

Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love and power, the manifestation of the source from which everything comes, the goal toward which everything yearns, and the presence in whom everything exists and flourishes.  Jesus Christ is “God’s heart” made known to us…  Jesus Christ is God’s prophet and incarnation, preaching a ministry of liberation to the oppressed and embodying this ministry in his death and resurrection (by accepting the consequences of his total identification with the world’s pain and in manifesting God’s glory in, through and in spite of it)[1].

If we look at the second reading through this lens, we can see that “the resurrection is a promise from God that life and love and joy and health and peace and beauty are stronger than their opposites, if we work to make it that way”[2]; if we will follow the way of Jesus of living that Jesus taught us, which means we meet God in the face of a starving person, in the remains of a clear-cut forest, and the people who are still suffering the devastating effects of being “discovered” by Columbus.  The example of Jesus calls us to help that starving person and that devastated forest, and, to work for the rights and dignity of First Peoples. 
In spite of all they have endured, right now, it is the example of the First Peoples that is pointing the way.  For example, think of all the different people who inhabit North America as the lepers in today’s Gospel story.  Like the lepers in the Gospel, they have all enjoyed the gifts that God has bestowed on this beautiful land.  In this metaphor, the First Peoples could be seen as the Samaritans.  First Peoples, similar to the Samaritans in scripture, were discriminated against and thought of as less than because they worshipped in a different way than Columbus and those who followed after him. 

Now, let’s fast forward to today.   Everyone could and should enjoy God’s gifts to this land ─ but ─the political, corporate, and unfortunately, some of the religious elite, have forgotten the concept of gift.  They can only see the gifts as sources of profit for the benefit of the few.  Only the Samaritans still see that the Earth is God’s and its bounties are a gift.  The voice of that lone Samaritan in today’s Gospel, is echoed in the words of the late BC Elder from the Carrier Nation, Sophie Thomas, who said: 

  • You do not change what the Creator has made… it is a gift
  • If we look after our earth, it will look after us. If we destroy it, we'll destroy ourselves.

Instead of thanking the Creator for everything like the First People’s, we don’t let the earth heal, we poison our waters.  We are proceeding to destroy our planet.  The North American First Peoples, the ones we have not alienated from their culture and traditions, still remember to thank the Creator for everything as part of their individual daily lives and in their communal ceremonies.  That’s what I mean by, they are pointing the way.  To follow Jesus, we too should show our thanks and gratitude for the Earth and its gifts.  The Earth is God’s household and we are called to be thankful, protective members of it, keeping it clean and healthy for all who dwell in it, now and for the next seven generations. 
When Columbus set foot on the shores of the Americas, a wheel of oppression was set in motion that has wreaked havoc on the earth itself, Indigenous people, and the less affluent among the non-indigenous population.  As followers of Jesus, who showed his love for the outcasts, we can work together stop the oppression of this land and its people. 
Most of all let us remember that as Christians our communal ceremony, the Eucharist, means thanksgiving.  Therefore, we imitate Christ when we remember every day, to acknowledge and be grateful for God’s gifts: the Bread and Wine that we will share today; God’s gifts in and of the natural world, God’s gifts in and of each other and ourselves, and all God’s gifts that surround us. Thanks be to God, amen.

[1]   McFague, Sallie. 2001. Life abundant: rethinking theology and economy for a planet in peril. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, pp. 131-2.
[2]   Ibid p.179

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