AGORSOR AARON AGBESHIE
2KINGS 5:14-17 / PSALM 98 / 2 TIMOTHY 2:8-13/ LUKE 17:11-19
THEME: INGRATITUDE IS A VICE
Our Liturgy for today draws attention to the need for us to show gratitude to God for his goodness to us.
Naman the Syrian in the First Reading shows us that in our bid to give gratitude to God for blessings he has bestow on us, we receive and everlasting gift; the gift of salvation. Naaman turned right around and asked for a gift for himself instead. “Give me two mule loads of dirt, for I want for I want to take that back to Damascus and there build an altar there for Yahweh.” Naaman identified the deity with the place where he was worshipped and to transfer the deity had to transfer the place (at least a portion of it) where he was worshipped. He did that because now he wants to be faithful to Yahweh.
The faith of the Christian is given him in Baptism in embryonic form and that faith must be nurtured and developed as Christian goes through life. A Christian does not do this all alone by himself, for no man is an island John Donne said long ago. He is helped by others in the community, who may not accept a gift from Naaman lest his faith suffers or as open as Naaman’s servant who told him where his faith was weak and needed a bit of shoring. The role played by the servant girl in bringing Naaman to faith in God is a symbol of how the Christian Community must help the weak in faith to come to believe in the person of Jesus himself in spite of the difficulties they go through. If a servant girl can lead her master to Jesus, what about us who by virtue of our baptism have become brothers and sisters in Christ? Remember that Jesus tells us that he no longer calls us servants but friends. Indeed, we have a greater responsibility because to him who much is given much is expected.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus teaches us the lesson of showing gratitude to God.
Every child of God should cultivate the grace of gratitude. It not only opens the heart to further blessings but glorifies and pleases the Father. An unthankful heart is fertile soil for all kinds of sins. The story of the ten lepers leaves much to be desired. Before we begin to condemn the nine lepers who did not come back to thank Jesus, what is our own “Gratitude Quotient?” How often do we take our blessings for granted and fail to thank the Lord? “Oh that man would praise the Lord the Lord for his goodness and for his wonderful works to the children of men” (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Too often we are content to enjoy the gift but we forget the giver. We are quick to pray but slow to praise. Like Naaman in the First Reading, who receive a gift from God (the Gift of faith) because he showed gratitude, the Samaritan Leper who returned to show gratitude to Jesus received something greater than Physical healing: he was also saved from his sins. Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you”, the same words He spoke to the repentant woman who anointed His feet (Luke 7:50). The Samaritan nine friends were declared clean by the priest, but he was declared saved by the Son of God! While it is wonderful to experience the miracle of Physical healing, it is even more wonderful to experience the miracle of eternal salvation.
St Paul in the Second Reading gives a message of hope to all Christians who are suffering or undergoing persecution for the sake of their faith. For Paul, the best way to magnify Christ is through the ministry of the Word. Paul was bound, but God’s Word cannot be bound. No one can take our will captive; in the same way no one can imprison our desire to serve God. Paul’s admonishing to Timothy is full of paradoxes namely death leads to life; suffering leads to reigning in glory. Indeed, we have nothing to fear because even our doubt and unbelief cannot change Jesus. He remains faithful forever because He cannot deny himself. Let us not put faith in ourselves, possession, our feelings and the like because they will change and fail. Let us put our faith in Jesus the great missionary. J. Hudson Taylor, often said, “It is not by trying to be faithful , but in looking to the faithful one that we win the victory.”
In sum, prayer must have qualities such as these. Otherwise, Shakespeare will ring true again: “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words, without thoughts, never to heaven go.” Our faith is strengthened through help from the Christian community. It will fill our lives with suffering and must fill our hearts with gratitude. In these ways, “shall live with him” now and hereafter.