“How do we become people of faith? “
Reflection for 28 Sunday of the year
With leprosy largely eradicated, none of us is likely to bump into a leper any time soon. Yet, given that most of us have been well-acquainted with today’s Gospel story since childhood, we’re familiar with what leprosy means and all it conjures up: unsightly physical deformity, frightening contagion, social exclusion: your worst nightmare. It screams: Keep away!
So we’re not likely to think that we might be infected by a touch of leprosy ourselves; not of the outward, physical variety, of course, but an inner state of self-sufficiency, so symptomatic of our times, that can lead to a disconnectedness from others and from God, and eventually to a kind of lovelessness, whereby we can be slow to either give or receive love, an illness from which we need to be healed.
Today’s gospel is an invitation for us to call to Jesus for inner healing, an invitation extended also to those who feel they stand some way off from him. No matter how far away one might feel to be, the healing power of Jesus is available to all.
It’s so easy to live superficially, without real awareness. We can become so accustomed to the bounteous gifts of creation, the multitude of services we can call on, all the caring people that are around us, that we can easily take it all for granted.
So how do we become people of faith? I would suggest it is when we realise that our experiences of goodness are no longer to be seen as things to which we are entitled, but rather as God’s gifts, given with love, given without charge.
And even when life does bring all kinds of difficulty and disappointment, there are so many good things that come our way and which call for gratitude.
People of faith are those who live with a fundamental gratitude etched on their hearts. And it shows! In how they deal with the little things: respectful rather than wasteful; In how they engage with society’s vulnerable ones: caring rather than dismissive. And it takes on a Christian dimension when we return to Jesus, like that singular leper, who no longer kept his distance, but threw himself at the feet of Jesus; not just recognising that his healing of body and soul was a gift from God, but also acknowledging that it is Jesus who is the mediator of God’s love, something we celebrate so profoundly in the Eucharist, the ultimate celebration of thanksgiving.
Today’s gospel passage could in a way be summed up in three easy steps: asking, receiving, thanking; but that sounds rather passive. The gospel text is full of words of movement: Stand up, says Jesus, Go on your way. Move. Just as Jesus has been on the move, he says the same to the one who was healed, and to you and me:
Go on your way, be people of THE WAY; Your faith has saved you: journey in faith, thankful for what you’ve received; generous in what you can give! Go!
By Koenraad Van Gucht SDB