Gratitude pays (Luke 17:11-19)
Let us teach our children gratitude.
In the story, even children will understand the greatness of small things.
The story tells of an ant drowning in the water of a brook. A dove saw it. She took a blade of grass and, holding it in her beak, approached the ant. The ant scrambled on top of it and saved itself. After a while, the ant carried the grain. He saw a hunter about to shoot a dove. He quickly dropped the grain, scrambled up the hunter’s boot, and bit him on the leg. The hunter jumped in pain and missed, and the dove was saved.
Each can be helpful to the other, but we should be grateful to each other for the goodness, love, and help shown… How good it is to read in the parish announcements, or to hear in the reports, that the faithful remember to give thanks and give to the Mass to give thanks… Have you also thought of forgetting ingratitude and noticing gratitude more? Gratitude is said to be the best medicine, the most beautiful rose, the most potent weapon, and whatnot…
Jesus said to the Samaritan, the only one of the ten healed who came to thank Jesus: “Get up and walk; your faith has healed you” (Lk 17:19).
The Gospels tell us about the conduct of the Lord Jesus that wherever He went, He did good and did not enjoy human praise or glorification. He did it quietly, without the effects that human popularity should bring Him. After the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, when the multitude wanted to make him king, he withdrew himself into silence and solitude. Of almsgiving, he said: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may remain hidden. And your Father will reward you, for he sees even in secret” (Mt 6:3-4). Jesus teaches: whoever gives a gift, let him not act in such a way that he expects the other person to return it to him. Jesus does not want the principle of reciprocation to apply among us. He teaches us gratitude in the behavior of the Samaritan.
Several places in Scripture remind us of gratitude. The Apostle St. Paul reminds the Ephesians to guard against all sin, as befits the saints, and instead to give thanks (cf. Eph. 5:4). To the Colossians, he commands, “And be thankful” (Col. 3:15)! St. Paul, not only costs, but we can recognize him as a man of thanksgiving. He writes to the believers in Rome: “Greet Prisca and Aquila… They have set their necks for my life. To them not only am I indebted with thanksgiving” (Rom. 16:3-4).
One might ask: In what does gratitude consist? Indeed, it is not just a momentary emotional thing when someone has shown us service, help, love, or attention, a kind of goodness. It is an inner strength that manifests itself in outward signs. Gratitude is a manifestation of honor, of the inner man. It is the response of inner attitudes displayed by exterior signs.
Jesus points to this fact when he meets the ten lepers whom he heals. The healing occurred on the way, away from him, because he said to them: “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (Lk 17:14). He did not take them aside; he did not touch the sick places; he did not pray over them… Maybe that’s why some of them murmured, but they made their way to the priests because, according to the Law of Moses from the Book of Leviticus (cf. Lv 13:11), they knew that only the priest could declare someone clean, that is, healed, and they could return to their former way of life. Perhaps after hearing about Jesus being a miracle worker, they listened and went. The Evangelist St. Luke noted: “As they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14). Why didn’t Jesus heal them right away? He wanted them to share in the healing, to believe in Him. They walked away from him, that is, they thought, but their subsequent behavior became a memento until the end. To God, our gratitude adds nothing to greatness, glory, power, etc. The Apostle St. Paul reminds us in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, “But thanks be to God, who always gives us the victory in Christ, and by our means reveals in every place the fragrance of his knowledge” (2 Cor. 2:14). We gain even more in union with Christ when we do his will. The Samaritan recognized that he was healed. He returns to Christ to give thanks for the body’s healing. Jesus’ words: “Arise and walk, your faith has made you well” (Lk 17:19), also speak of the recovery of the soul or the increase of faith.
And gratitude for the increased faith, the healing in faith, deserves our greater attention. Pay attention to your faith. To be grateful to God for the gift of faith.
Johnson Gnanabaraman, in his meditation on this incident of the healing of the ten lepers, reflects in this way. He asks the ten men why they did not return to Jesus and give thanks for their recovery. And these are the answers:
First: I am not ungrateful, but rather, I wanted to show my family and friends that I was well. Then I wanted to thank Jesus, but he had left in the meantime.
Second: I wanted to thank Jesus, but not at the same time as the Samaritan because I am a believing Israelite. But before I could find the messenger, Jesus left.
Third: I wanted not only to give thanks in words but also to bring a gift, but I am poor and found nothing worthy.
Fourth: I had the intention of giving thanks. However, when I showed myself to the priests, I was unsure if my healing was permanent. I know that now, but Jesus is gone.
On the fifth: I almost returned with the Samaritan. To thank him, but there were many around him, and I would have had to confess to them that I was a leper and that he had healed me. I was ashamed, that’s why I didn’t come back.
On the sixth: Actually, I wanted to. I remembered that Jesus had helped others and didn’t expect thanks for it, so I didn’t come back either.
Seventh: I am not ungrateful. With great joy, I forgot. When I remembered, Jesus was gone.
Eighth: There are many lepers in the world. Indeed my honest, moral, exemplary life moved Jesus to heal me. Why should I still give thanks?
Ninth: I know how to give thanks. I wanted to give thanks, but most didn’t go; I didn’t go either. I stick with the majority.
And the Samaritan also asked. And the answer? “I can’t live without breathing. I couldn’t go home until I thanked Jesus.
Which answer is closest to us? Attitudes to gratitude, attitudes, views on gratitude, and especially daily practice speak not only about what kind of people we are but also what kind of Catholic Christians we are. Let us ask ourselves: Doesn’t God deserve our gratitude? For what? For the gift of life, health, sickness, work, hands, eyes, hearing, heart, family, children, vacations… But also for the supernatural gifts, the gift of redemption, the gifts we receive through the sacraments, the Mass, prayer, and acts of Christian mercy.
To King Louis XIV of France are attributed the words which, at the first moment of hearing them, strike one: “When you call someone to office, you make a hundred malcontents and one ingratitude.” A hundred malcontents are understandable. They also desire, wish, like the office, but one ingrate? There is something in it. We may also come across it in our life; you help somebody, he is grateful to you in the beginning, but soon the opposite begins. Does it not happen that the words of the proverb are fulfilled: “For a goodness – for a beggar?”
Today we should be aware of our gratitude to those who, through their love, various services, and help, often at great effort, toil, and personal sacrifice, at the expense not only of their free time but also of their health, have given us values for which they rightly, justifiably deserve an expression of gratitude.
The old teacher was celebrating her eightieth birthday. Children were her life. For them, she did not marry; she forgot her happiness or renounced it… For several decades, she wiped the noses and tears of first graders. Many have forgotten her. What joy she had when grandfathers and mothers, her former children, and pupils came to congratulate her.
Let’s put ourselves in the situation, what does an older adult feel during Christmas when they are supposed to be alone? What joy, how he gives thanks when the neighbors in the entrance, from the street, notice him, even though they are not family, and invite him to the Christmas Eve table.
Life is more joyful when we can be grateful to one another for small acts of service, help, helpfulness… We know that we don’t lose a lot of time doing it; it doesn’t cost much effort, makes others happy, and makes life more pleasant.
Parents who pay attention to gratitude when raising their children prepare a beautiful future for themselves and them.
A many-hearted example from the first reading of the Second Book of Kings is Naaman, who was healed of leprosy by Elisha. When Elisha refuses to accept the gift, Naaman says: “Let me, your servant, take from this land” (2 Kings 5:17). This land will remind him of love. So he wants to show his gratitude.
A souvenir for our gratitude to God. Our involvement in prayer, accessing the sacraments, giving thanks, and making atonement, is gratitude to God. The Christian’s gratitude to God should be as self-evident as the fact that we breathe. If we have forgotten or underestimated our gratitude, now is the time to make things right.
A God-fearing man came before Peter.
“Where do you want to go?” “To heaven, of course.” “Anyone would, but here’s the point system.” “I hadn’t even thought of that. How many points does it take to get into heaven?” “About a thousand.” The man was taken aback by this, but Peter started: “What did you do well on earth?” “I’ve been to Mass every day. That means something.” “Yes, one point.” The guy shuddered. “I was a member of the Holy Rosary, and I prayed my tithe and the whole rosary every day.” Peter again: “Second point.” Sweat rose to the boy’s brow. “I was a member of the Society of St. Vojtech.” “Third point.” “I used to go help with the singing.” ” Fourth point.” “I prayed daily.” “Fifth point.” “Here, only God’s grace will help me, I believed in it, so I tried to be grateful to God daily.” “Do you believe that God is pleased with your gratitude?” “Yes!” Peter smiles, “So you’ve earned enough points, and you can go to the one you feel gratitude to, God.”
Gratitude pays off. This is not just a statement but a human experience; one day, we will see that it is also an essential key to heaven.
Recall from history when representatives of the people went to the monarch to present their petitions to him. Let us remember, for example, the Slovak delegation of 1861, which handed over to the monarch in Vienna the Memorandum of the Slovak Nation and the proposal of the Privilege for the realization of the equality of the Slovak nation in Hungary, or the petition march in Petrograd in 1905. The sovereigns did not accept the demands of both these actions.
We must reckon with this, which can happen when we ask someone for something, and they refuse. It is possible with people.
But it is not possible for God not to grant our requests. Jesus says: “Ask, and you shall receive! Seek and ye shall find! Knock and it will be opened to you!” (Luke 11:9).
From this, we see that Jesus also recommends petitionary prayer to God to fulfill our requests. Some of you might object at this point: I have prayed for my son’s healing and have not been answered. My son died.
What to judge about that? So what is the point of the petitionary prayer that Jesus recommends?
To answer this question, we first need to realize: Who God is and what God is like.
The misconception of God is this: God observes people, what they do, and if they do his will, then he is suitable to them, but if they do not do his commands, then he speaks: Wait! I will remember this! You will still need me! But then I will not give you anything if you do this. As ye do unto me, so will I do unto you. God is not like this, nor can he be! He is not vengeful. He does not tremble with terror whether any man will obey Him or not.
Jesus did not present God to us this way, but He announced that God is our benevolent Father. He lives in infinite bliss and wants to let people experience as much of His bliss as possible. God is close to us, knows our desires, and grants many of them even before we ask for them or deserve them.
But even though He gives us many gifts without prayer, He still wants to provide us with some skills if we ask for them properly.
God gives us all kinds of benefits. God does not revel in our asking Him to have mercy on us. He is a great lover of truth, and He wants us to realize the great truth that we are nothing of ourselves because we have nothing of our own. When He fulfills our desires, He wants to arm us with one more great gift on that occasion. For it is then that we realize the truth about ourselves. We acquire that precious virtue of modesty and the integrity of great trust in God. Let us not think that God is killing us and throwing us down by this.
People with excellent education would be able to tell us how little man means in the universe and how limited his abilities are. The progress of science is silencing the voices that speak of man as an almost omnipotent giant. More than one college graduate admits that what he learned in college was primarily how little knowledge he had.
That is why God asks for petitionary prayer, that in the process, we may be perfected in the love and truth of our dependence on God.
God will grant our every petitionary prayer. We do not doubt that He will present even the petition of such a person who has long forgotten Him and needs His help suddenly. Even if He does not immediately give him precisely what he asks for, He will provide him with an even better gift. A gift which he requires more, and that is the gift of the virtue of religion.
The father of the sick son may not have remembered God for many years, and it was only prayer for his son’s recovery that brought him to God. He asked for his son’s health gift and was gifted with the greatest treasure of all – faith in God. Even though his son had died, his prayer was not in vain. Those who prayed for him became closer to God. They asked for and received even more than they asked for. They were blessed with God’s graces and the experience of God’s nearness.
Jesus Christ, Himself can be our model in petitionary prayer. He endured the most difficult trial. In his hour of extreme anguish, he prayed to God in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed so fervently that he was sweating blood: “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me.” (Lk 22:42).
He was not heard. We know that he eventually died in terrible pain on the cross. But his prayer was meaningful. After these words of worship, an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And strengthened, he remained faithful to the Father until his last breath.
The French writer Albert Camus describes a plague epidemic in a novel.
People thought the plague was a punishment for their sins. But one day, an innocent boy they loved fell ill, especially a believing priest and an unbelieving doctor.
The doctor devoted all his care to the boy, the parish priest prayed together with his faithful as fervently as possible, and God’s miracle did not occur. The boy dies.
The unbelieving doctor becomes even more bitter after the boy’s death and becomes convinced that such an unjust God cannot exist.
The priest did the opposite. He went to the pulpit and preached, “There is much suffering in the world, the meaning of which the human mind can hardly comprehend, and it will take a twofold attitude to suffer, either it will resist the senselessness of evil and reject God as unjust, or it will embrace God even though He sends suffering upon men. In God’s eyes, even suffering has redemptive value, for it brings human souls closer to God.”
And the priest chooses the latter. He humbly submits to the incomprehensible ways of God. He did not know why God decided to call the boy to Himself. He didn’t know if He had called to spare him some great disappointment or for another reason. He only knew that God had the power to join the sufferings of men to the redemptive sufferings of Christ.
And he praised God that many had encountered God and been enriched by his graces during his prayers for the boy’s healing.
Let us also be strengthened in the conviction that God is always with us and hears our every prayer. Let us not hesitate to present any request to God persistently, but with a condition: Not my will, but thine, O God, be done!
Let us not consider the possibility that God will not hear us. Even if it seems to us that God does not listen to us, does not care for us, let us know that in prayer, we have been blessed with even better graces than we asked for.
When we ask God for anything, let us remember to ask Him also to kindly grant us such desires as He may fill for our benefit and His greater glory.
We see many human faces every day. They are tanned, healthy, cheerful, and full of freshness and life. But we also see many pale, sad, discouraged faces.
One walks down the street and does not know whether one is standing in front of a person or act of a shop window and sees a dummy in front of one. For such are the faces of many people; lifeless, bored, annoyed, discouraged…
The face is the expression of the human soul. The soul of such a man is in the grip of incomprehensible weariness, sullenness, worry, and life’s unpleasantness.
Spiritual experts advise: try it with prayer. Try to free your mind from the cramped atmosphere and a morbid mood by lifting your thoughts to heaven. Learn to pray. Expose your soul to the rays of heaven as you expose your bodies to the sun to make them tanned.
Many a man signs in his morbid melancholy, but I cannot even pray anymore.
Don’t be afraid, don’t say you can’t pray! Christ comes to your help today in the Gospel. He teaches his disciples to pray and encourages them that the heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to all who ask him.
And the Holy Spirit is the life into your weary and unruly body. All that is required of you is to ask and pray. Everyone who asks receives, whoever seeks finds, and whoever knocks gets an opening.
These words not only apply to the Apostles, but the Lord Jesus says them to us today, assuring us that God will answer our prayer. Will He hear us in all that we ask? Yes. In all things that accomplish Christ’s redemptive work in and outside us. Jesus guarantees a hearing, but only within the framework of the Divine Providence that governs the world. It is necessary, however, that one not only ask but that one makes it happen. It is naive to ask to have everything at once at this moment and without any effort, but it is excellent and necessary to ask for help against evil inclinations, for grace in the zeal to arrive at virtue. In this matter, supplications are never in vain. Similarly, the hearing of petitions for temporal gifts is guaranteed by Jesus if they are related to our soul’s welfare.
And such petitionary prayer is offered by Christ today to all who are wakeful and sick, from whom the life of God is ebbing away.
Brothers and sisters, to pray and ask God is to find the spring of living water, as Christ speaks to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
To pray means to ease your inferiority, put away the gloom of your life, and take a breath from your worries and miseries.
Even St. James the Apostle says: “Are any of you suffering? Let him pray” (Jas 5:13).
Yes, to draw in prayer the restorative power of the air from the heavenly mountains and strength from the higher light. We can do all this in prayer. We do not find it in any pleasures and amusements.
In one of his short stories, the French novelist Maupassant describes the exuberant life of a wine bar: it takes place in a modest little house where love is sold and wild dancing is done under the influence of wine and passion. When these orgies have reached their climax, the owner of the house staggers and sink to the ground. Suddenly there is a sepulchral silence. The woman has died. A stroke struck her. Then one of the women kneels and begins to pray the Our Father. She struggles for words, for she has not prayed it in years! But a second, a third, comes and helps her. They are frightened and pray. Where did the transition from stormy passions to prayer come from in them? Indeed, they have felt their human weakness and God’s power to end the intoxication of the senses.
This, too, is the form of man. When he is knocked down to the ground, seized with pain – he begins to pray. He lifts his hands to prayer, or at least his heart to God. Will those whom we see disgusted and tormented in ordinary life do this? Will they! They will if we help them.
Let us help them not seek comfort down on earth but long for heaven. Let us help them not to seek comfort and strength in wine cellars but in God! Let us tell them that Christ can shake the weary souls poisoned by passions, boredom, and alcohol. If we do not have the strength to say to them this, or perhaps we feel that we are like this, then we have no choice but to pray for ourselves and them in this way:
God, you have created us in your image. We are to show you in our lives; we are to radiate joy and happiness – but you see what sin causes in us. We ask you, God of life, we ask you for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, give us your Spirit – give us your Spirit, give it to all who ask you for it, that we may shine again with the fullness of life that you provide, O God.
Until a few decades ago, we might have felt that the world was more or less understandable, and we could lean on the unquestioned certainties of three-dimensional space, solid matter, and fixed time. Twentieth-century physics, however, has led us astray and looking at an open book, the reader is not sure whether he is reading from a science fiction story. At the end of the twentieth century, it was clear that the universe was a far more remarkable place than we could ever have suspected, that things were far more complex than everyday experiences suggested.
With the development of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, it became apparent that only a tiny fraction of dimensions behave reasonably and customarily: the world at minimal and vast distances is very different. It acts very differently from the world we grew up in, the world of our spaces. The certainties have broken down for us: the masses are full of empty places, the room has all kinds of strange twists and turns, and the clocks always point differently in different areas. Everything is different! A solid mass and, at small distances, boils, and bubbles; most of all, it resembles a stormy sea or
boiling foam. The black holes are somehow encapsulated in space, space can be torn like a sponge for washing, and there are many more dimensions than our usual four. My hands, which are now writing this text, are not material but bundles of dancing strings. Man on Earth suddenly seems like a settler who emerges from his comfortable cottage, where he is warm and light, and finds a storm raging outside and angels flying and dancing fairies. The world is very different from what we imagined! We live in a quiet bubble of space-time: at high speeds, great masses, and distances large or small, everything is different.
I think contemporary physics has vastly outstripped the imagination of science fiction writers: reality is more interesting than the best science fiction story. The more physicists investigate the Big Bang Theory and the initial parameters of the universe, the more unexpected they come to. If just one of the many constants had a slightly different value than it does, neither galaxies, stars, nor we would ever have come into existence. The probability of the initial parameters being “correctly” set is so tiny as almost zero. Except that’s precisely what happened. To somehow avoid the problem, astrophysicists define the so-called anthropic principle. One and its form says that the universe must be so we can live in it. Maybe there are many universes where the constants are set. Nobody will ever know because life cannot exist in them (at least in that form as we know it). Because we are here, the universe must look like this. It’s strange: because of people on a tiny planet, a small galaxy, the universe looks the way it does.
Since the Middle Ages, our cosmic self-consciousness has somehow faded. It was generally assumed that the center of the universe was the Earth, around which everything revolves, figuratively and literally. Galileo Galilei and Nicholas Copernicus made it clear that the center of the universe is the sun. In 1750 Thom as Wright discovered that the Milky Way in the night sky is our view inside the galaxy of which we are a part. Today, we know that we and our solar system are stumbling somewhere on the edge of this galaxy. It was probably the philosopher Immanuel Kant who first 1755 wrote that at least some of the nebulae we see in the sky are circular disks about the same size as our galaxy. Today, we know that there are millions of galaxies like ours in the universe, that galaxies form clusters and superclusters of galaxies that are also in the universe very irregularly distributed as if they were imaginary walls of some unimaginably large spatial cell. We know the universe is not infinite, but we can hardly imagine its size.
To Immanuel Kant, who marveled at the starry sky above him, with whom he recalled one clear night at the opposite end of the planet, in Antar …on the other side of Antarctica. I wish you could experience the feeling of the limitless depth of space when, on a solitary walk, I suddenly had the impression that I was standing upside down and seeing the starry sky below me, looking into the endless depths of a universe that had no bottom. For our healthy humility, it is sometimes a helpful warm-up to try to look at our galaxy from somewhere very far away until it looks like a blurry speck in space: then, we can more easily grasp the comicality of all dictators and our lust for power. In his play the Life of Insects, Karel Capek develops a battle of ants in a poisonous scene: they fly with orders and big words about glory as we are used to them from our human wars. Only later does the viewer realize that the whole war is being fought over a piece of forest land, over a single blade of grass. Too bad Capek didn’t live to see the Hubble telescope.
Martha received the Lord Jesus warmly and immediately began to take great pains to serve him. When she was not up to it herself and saw that her sister Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him, she turned to Jesus with a question: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister leaves me to serve myself? Tell her to help me!” The Lord answered her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things, and only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen a better portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:40-42).
Now you may say to yourself. So hard-working Martha worries about working in the kitchen and serving at the table, and in the end, she gets even more reproach!
Mary, who doesn’t feel like serving, conveniently sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to Him instead of working. And she is commended for having decided on a better portion that will not be taken away from her.
How is it possible, then, that Martha must continue to struggle with eating alone, but everyone will eat? On the other hand, if everyone acted like Mary, who would care about the Lord and his disciples?
Yet the words of the Lord Jesus cannot be understood as a rebuke of the diligent and a commendation of the lazy. Therefore, we need to reflect more deeply on this response of Jesus.
Let us look at the lilies of the field, which neither toil nor spin. Let us remember the parable of the mustard seed. In it, Christ compares the kingdom of God to a source that grows and ripens on its own – without human intervention. In this way, he gives us an example of a life surrendered to the will of God.
When Jesus rebukes Martha, he points out her over-concern for many things and, thus, the unhealthy overindulgence she would like to impose on others. In Mary, on the other hand, Christ commends not inactivity or laziness but attentive listening to his words. The ability to choose at that moment what is most fitting and necessary.
We too often think, like Martha, that activity is the most necessary. Just doing, always realizing something, organizing. We have the impression that the time set aside for prayer, meditation, and listening to the Word of God is a waste of time, which should be reserved for action. Like Martha, we are often concerned about what we can do for the Lord and not what the Lord can do for us and what He can provide us with. Thus, such an encounter with Jesus is crucial, for only he will grant us God’s wisdom, love, and eternal life. Without this connection, there is no true religion. This union with God in prayer, contemplation, adoration, and collaboration with the Eucharistic Christ is the only thing necessary. Other items can only be helpful.
This example sums it up very well.
An old banker was driving a young college student in his boat. The student noticed that on one oar was written “ora” and on the other “labor.” So he asked the older man a question: – Please, why does the one who works need to pray?
The old man did not answer immediately but let go of the oar, which was written “ora,” and rowed only with the other oar. The boat began to turn round and round. “But we won’t get any further this way,” said the student. “Of course,” replied the old man, “he who only works and does not pray will get nowhere.”
Now, you may object that work, affairs, and engagements are duties and necessities that no one can avoid, and therefore one must choose work or prayer. No, such an objection will not stand! Because both prayer and work must be selected. These two concepts are not mutually exclusive, as many think, precisely because they know neither work nor prayer. When one works and does not pray, and when one prays and does not work, exhaustion comes anyway. So it is possible, even necessary, to pray while working and to work while praying.
Praying does not mean saying a lot of words. Prayer is lifting the mind to God, which can be done in the factory, the school, the market, the operating table, and even the department.
Well, brothers and sisters, what lesson is there for us in all this? Indeed, our religiosity must also have both components: it must be contemplative and active.
Our life is very crowded with activity, so there is a danger that we will have no time left for contemplative life. Worrying about our future, family, jobs, and livelihood could gradually alienate us. It is, therefore, essential that we do not neglect this part of our religious life altogether, that we know how to find a moment for prayer, contemplation, adoration, and above all, for an encounter with the Eucharistic Christ in the Holy Mass. For genuine religiosity is not only in action, but at times it is necessary to be able to sit at the feet of Jesus in the spirit and to listen attentively to his words because they are required as the speech of life, as the speech that is of more excellent value than all the other things of this world – it is the speech on which our life, even our death, depends.
Let us strive to understand this, and ask Almighty God to do so today, that we may be a little Martha and a little Mary if we all want to be among the friends of Jesus.
The saying goes: “He who asks much learns.” A young child asks questions of his parents over and over again. He asks everything. And we enjoy his curiosity. The pupil or student also often raises his hand and asks questions. The teacher wants and does not feel tired when he sees the interest of his listeners. The adult also needs to ask a question himself from time to time. That, too, is right. He searches, he investigates, and he wants to prove something.
In today’s Gospel, we have witnessed the dialogue of the expert in the Law, who nevertheless tempted Jesus with a question: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Lk 10:25).
What shall we do? What is God’s will for us? But then we are afraid to wait for the answer. We are so scared to hear Jesus’ response because we know the answer to that question within ourselves. We are so scared of being struck by Christ’s imperative: You are doing it right, you sense, you feel, you know, you see, you understand. Do this, and you will live!
The expert in the Law asks this question of Jesus, only to catch him in speech. Jesus, however, puts this issue on the right track of practical living. He does not instigate a discussion but points to a concrete example with the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this way, he forces the scribe not to speculate, to argue in speech. Jesus does not tell him: This I commend to you, I command you, remember this, but he says: “Go and do likewise.” (Lk 10:37).
It was tough to talk to the scribe because the Jews hated the Samaritans. They considered them Gentiles, so a wall of envy, hatred, and prejudice had formed between them. And the Lord Jesus, in this parable, singles out the Samaritan who has a better heart than the Jewish priest and Levite. The Samaritan, touched by a noble spirit, comes to the aid of his neighbor, even if it requires a sacrifice on his part.
The scribe’s answer was simple and correct, but the daily practice was challenging.
Love is one and simple, always and everywhere. But its ways are also different. It starts from our little self, but it must always lead from Jerusalem to Jericho through friendships, relatives, and various obstacles and pitfalls. It must go on, from breaking bread to breaking a heart of kindness, graciousness, forgiveness, and the sacrifice of life. In today’s modern world, neither computers nor atomic energy can take our place in this, for the only one who drives it is Christ, God, who is Love. These are not heroic acts of love but ordinary, everyday ones. Let’s consider today’s Gospel example and which character we act out.
The ringing of the telephone awakens us. The wife who answered it says to me:
– Mrs. Lattenberg has a heart attack. You’re supposed to go there right away.
– You know very well that the car is in the shop. Let them come for me.
– My husband is not at home; he is at work – comes from the other side.
The sick woman lived in a secluded place far outside the village. In summer, it’s a walk, but in winter, now… I started to get dressed. I, too, felt my sick heart.
– Call a neighbor to take me there.
The neighbor will drive back:
– Now, at midnight? We have the right to rest!
– They have the right, and what about me? They will need help one day; they shouldn’t forget that. After all, it’s a man’s life! That lady already had a heart attack once!
– You’re right; maybe they’ll admit it, – the wife retorts.
While I went to get my briefcase, my wife dialed a number. But no one answered. Even the Hausers were sitting in front of the TV and refused. They said they wanted to rest.
The wife said:
– What are you going to do? Walk to the crossroads; possibly, someone will pick you up.
Distrustfully, I put on my coat, lambskin, and warm gloves and walked out into the thicket.
– It’s my duty, – I sneered.
A car was coming from the town. I stood on the side of the road and waved my battering ram. The car passed close by, and the driver pulled up and continued in the direction I was headed.
– Villain!” came out of my mouth, and my arms were getting heavy.
Mr. Lattenberg shook the snow from his hat, slipped on his boots, and pulled a key from his bag. Before he could unlock it, the door opened. He saw a pale mother. Behind her crouched his two boys.
– I thought it was the doctor, – she said, disappointed.
– A doctor, why?
– Albina is sick. Probably her heart again. I telephoned him, but he won’t come immediately because his car was in the shop. His wife said he was walking, that he’d hitchhike someone at the intersection.
Mr. Lattenberg was puzzled. He pictured a hunched figure with a briefcase waving a battering ram in his mind. But why should he get his car dirty?
So that was him? Do you say he was waiting at the crossroads?
– You saw him? Why didn’t you pick him up in the car? Why?!
The mother’s face changed:
– You sucker! You know very well that he, too, has a sick heart and has to go slowly. He won’t come! And your wife will die! My God!
– Don’t cry; I’m coming for him. I’m coming…
He turned around, but his brother’s voice stopped him:
– You don’t have to, Charles. Albina has just died…
Which character in the story is similar to me? Who acted like a close person? Who can say: Do I have the right?!
Here, too, we can see what love can do. True love. A genuine Christian looks not only to his advantage but also to the needs of his neighbor.
Now we are sympathetic to the Good Samaritan. And whoever has not yet given himself the answer to the question “What to do?”, let him go and do like the Samaritan.
Go, don’t stand still, move! Open your eyes, and look around you! Is there anyone near you who requires help? Maybe it’s right in your family. Perhaps it’s your father, your mother, your children. Don’t wait for your big day, for the moment when someone hits you in the eye. Be a Samaritan, and do not spare the wine of love and the oil of consolation! Do it knowing that your eternal life is at stake.
A child asks, and when he grows up, he acts. The student, when he understands, will enlarge the ranks of the learned. The Christian today responds with acts of love.
Concern for faith (Luke 17:5-10)
Let us pay attention to our faith in a manner appropriate to our age, condition, and other values.
Autumn is the time of year when we not only harvest but also evaluate the harvest. What the weather has done, and what the human factor can do. The next harvest begins in the fall: seed selection, soil preparation, and catching up on ag deadlines. Those who do not underestimate this have the hope that the next harvest will be abundant and will be pleased.
Autumn is also the start of a new school or academic year. Those who are even slightly aware of the importance and need for knowledge do their best to study. To know more, to master is the guarantee of a successful future.
Today is also the time to say to the Lord and the apostles: “Give us more faith” (Lk 17:5)!
Faith is a gift we receive from God without earning it or forcing it. God is not obligated to give us this gift, so we know we are facing a tough nut to crack based on today’s Gospel. Believing in God, trusting in God, is a difficult and by no means easy or uncomplicated matter. On the other hand, the gift of faith may be possessed to a greater extent by a young person who is beginning to use reason and free will than by an older person, possibly with an academic degree.
Archaeologically, research points to the fact that in the beginning, the man was aware of his existence in connection with spiritual beings. In proportion to his philosophy, degree of intelligence, and knowledge of lia fe, a man tried to influence, attract, and incline various deities to his side. At a certain point in history, we can observe that it is not the man who invents deities but God Himself who makes Himself known to man. God acts as the Lord who loves man and even serves and saves man. At first, a man comes to know God as in a riddle, vaguely, unintelligibly, through the Jewish people’s prophets, kings, leaders, and teachers. With the coming of the Lord Jesus, the relationship between God and man is set in wondrous motion. Jesus acts as one who has power. He teaches and speaks in a way that no one before him has. In his words, the dead come to life, devils leave the oppressed, the deaf have their hearing restored, the dumb have their speech restored, the lame walk, and the lepers are cleansed. In his words, the net is filled with fish, the storm is stilled, the stormy sea is calmed, and the water is turned into wine. The apostles witness all this, and it is no wonder that they turn to Jesus with the plea, “Give us more faith” (Lk 17:5)! The answer of the Lord Jesus tells us that faith is a power that can do impossible things. It is not to be understood that trust would enable us to overpower the laws of nature to our liking or that it would serve only to amuse and entertain. God asks us to believe him, accept him in our lives, and faithfully do and keep his words. To do this, God has endowed us with reason, and free will, sends us teachers, guides, gives us signs, and communicates means. He requires us to cooperate with these means, which we must also understand as a gift and respond to them appropriately. Without prayer and the other means, we are to use to gain and grow faith, the opposite happens, a loss of faith, a departure from God. The growth of faith is not without struggles as we bear the consequences of original sin. None of us can avoid fights and wrestle with evil. We are tested and tempted, but we need not be overly afraid. Trusting in God’s help will help us to overcome, to avoid unnecessary scheming or risk-taking. The struggle for faith can be difficult at certain stages of life, but never beyond our strength. With the power of confidence, we can overcome. When the apostles ask for the gift of faith, they are a memento to us that without belief in a more significant measure, the demands Jesus makes of us cannot be realized.
Faith is the foundation; if it is weak, we will not stand when heavy demands are made upon us. We, too, are to cry to God, “Give us more faith” (Luke 17:5)! It is a wise plea. Like the apostles, we, too, are aware of what God can give us who want the happiness of man. Shall we ask for long life, health, wealth, and fame? Certainly not. This is temporary.
God, in his goodness, gives every man the opportunity to believe him. Therefore, every man can be saved, even those who lived before Christ, even those who have not encountered the teachings of Christ, even those who call God Allah, Buddha… What is decisive is man’s response. To live to the best of one’s knowledge and conscience, to fulfill one’s duties honestly, responsibly, in truth, love, and justice. Judgment and reward belong to God. God is the goal of every man. God gives to every man, in proportion to his time, age, and talents, a moral law in his soul, to which he responds by his life. Each man alone decides his salvation. God cannot be deceived. God rightly demands that we not only accept him as our goal, the purpose of our life, but that we respond to his gifts with gifts proportionate to the gifts he has given us and so grow in love for him. Therefore, it is valid for all people, without exception, that we are in this world to know God, to love him, and to serve him, for which we are provided with a reward. Whoever knowingly and willingly despises, does not accept, does not live up to what he has received from God, decides on a second reward – and that is punishment. God is who rewards the good but punishes the bad. Man’s faith, therefore, needs growth, developing activity, and work on its sanctification… We cannot be content with our faith at First Holy Communion or the Sacrament of Confirmation. As God gives us gifts, physical or intellectual growth, so He gives us gifts for the development of our faith. The growth of our faith is dependent on our cooperation with God. We know the greatness of our faith by the works we do. Those who cooperate with God are adequately fulfilling their duties. He also realizes that without God’s help, the growth of faith is impossible. Therefore, we cannot say that we believe – and not pray, not go to church, not access the sacraments. God established the Church, guided it, and through it, we receive the doctrine and the means to maintain and grow in faith.
It is time for us to rethink our faith. Is it appropriate to our age, life circumstances, and the means and graces we have received as a gift from God? Making excuses, speculating, procrastinating, and comparing ourselves too closely to others means we are not responding adequately to God’s facilities. On the contrary. With remorse, let us begin again with correction, albeit for the seventy-seventh time. That is, to start again on the path of cooperation with God’s gifts. Yes, even fasting, prayer, almsgiving, works of mercy, and faithful fulfillment of duties according to condition, age, or health are gifts that help us grow our faith.
True, we are to help one another. We may have been living our faith for years without deeper involvement. Someone just out of habit, or tradition, to avoid talking, just for the sake of someone else, participates in the acts that the Church prescribes but doesn’t believe it, doesn’t understand it, and doesn’t understand why it is this way and why not otherwise. One cannot command someone to believe. We can help, advise, explain, pray or ask God for him, but the other person must give his consent to God.
While still a young theology student, Bishop Helder Camara met an officer who confessed that he had not fulfilled his duties as a Catholic Christian since his First Communion. Now he would like to believe again. In an exchange of letters, the young student gave counterarguments to the officer’s objections to unbelief. These, however, did not convince him. Once, the officer wrote: “Intellectually, I am too poor, but I don’t believe.” The inexperienced student advised him to go to church in his uniform, kneel before the people’s eyes, and thus, in humility, perform an act of faith. However, he did not gain confidence in this way. After a time, a book from St. Teresa of Jesus, The Diary of a Soul, came into the officer’s hands. The next day, the officer writes a letter, “St. Therese accomplished in a few minutes what you could not.” The officer gained faith. It was a work of grace. “For the first time,” writes the Archbishop, “I then experienced the fact that above and beyond all arguments is the grace of God.”
Let us not sink in spirit when seeing and encountering unbelief in God. Let us do what we humanly can, but let us not forget how we can magnify or obtain the grace of God for ourselves and others.
Faith is something that escapes the scalpel of reason and psychology. But faith also has its stages. Faith is often a long process. Those who have received faith from their parents since childhood are in a different place from those who have felt the need to believe in adulthood. Faith is knowledge. One cannot want, possess, or know everything at once. The older one is, or if one wants to come to faith after a lousy life, one must realize that the more complex the journey will be. One must also understand that faith is never against science. True faith is not against actual science. That would be God against himself. God is, after all, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Faith is not the result of knowledge. To have faith, one must read the Gospel, have an open heart and mind to God, listen to the Church, and preferably have someone to advise, teach, explain, and guide the seeker.
St. Augustine, who personally went through the process of seeking faith, wrote: “Therefore, all man’s efforts will not bear fruit unless God Himself bestows this gift.” Beware, one who has already rejected the gift may not be worthy of being offered it again!
Autumn decides the future harvest. Even the beginning of the school year is an unrepeatable memento. So too, today’s Gospel is offered to us as a gift for faith growth.
Try to put yourself in this situation: an old, life-worn father, who has raised two sons, is alone. He wanted to live the rest of his life among his own and die in their circle. But they are not interested in the father. They are ashamed of him. They openly made him feel it not only by word but also by decreeing that he be admitted to a nursing home. However, he did not survive a single night in the house. He died. His heart failed due to the pain of being despised, disliked…
The Lord Jesus suffered similarly. He performed several miracles in Korozain, Bethesda, and the same in Capernaum, but they did not accept Him as their Lord and God. He said to them, but also for our edification: “He that hearth you hearth me, and he that despiseth you despiseth me. But whoever despises me despises him who sent me” (Lk 10:16).
Contempt hurts very much. It offends. It can hurt very deeply. We know that the Lord Jesus came into the world out of love to bring the world back to the Father. He has often shown His love in the cities mentioned above by His miracles, yet He must sigh sadly: “Woe to you, Korozain! Woe to thee, Bethesda! For if the miracles that have been done in Tyre and Sidon had been done in you, they would be long ago have been sitting in ashes in repentant garments and repenting” (Lk 10:13).
These are solemn words of caution, for rejected love brings just punishment. Whoever denies the Lord Jesus rejects the God who sent him, for according to the old diplomatic law, it is still true today that “an ambassador is like the one who sends him.” We know that it happens from time to time that whoever offends a diplomat who represents his nation somewhere offends the whole country in him. So it is with God. Whoever insults the Lord Jesus does not receive His love, despises it, and thereby offends and despises God Himself in all the three Divine Persons.
Sometimes in your rashness, in your hastiness, under the pressure of crosses and difficulties, you may have wished for a miracle to happen to confirm the truth of faith, the existence of God. But we know that even if this were to happen, it might not be beneficial. No miracle will disprove human objections and bring about conversion, for we see this in the performance of the Lord Jesus. His miracles, healing, resurrections from the dead, and satiation in the wilderness did not convert the majority of the Jews. They persisted in their bias against the Lord Jesus.
Therefore, our faith does not have to be based on miracles, but we are to believe the words of Jesus. It is the same then as it is today. Back then, actual people saw the Lord Jesus face to face and could touch Him. We today have the Church’s teaching that Christ is the same yesterday and tomorrow, and though He is veiled, we believe in His presence in the sacraments. He says that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is present among them also. Let us accept the words of the Lord Jesus, let us listen to them, and let us not despise his love. Whoever hates the teaching of the Church hates Christ himself, for Christ is the same in the Church.
Indeed, children who are ashamed of their father and have no place for him in the house must realize that they are calling down punishment upon themselves. The father’s heart broke with pain. Christ’s heart was pierced on the cross. But let us see that our intervention does not repeat the drama of Golgotha.
The Feast of the Archangels is a great thanksgiving to God for His goodness and incomprehensible desire to help and protect us from evil. The existence of God’s angels confirms God’s desire to provide safety and happiness for people on earth. Angels are God’s outstretched hand that protects us so that we reach our destination, eternal life, safely.
St. Gregory the Great describes the nature and meaning of the pure spirits: “It should be known that the name angel denotes service, not nature. Although these blessed spirits in the heavenly realm are spirits, they cannot always be called angels. They are angels only when they convey a message. Those who convey messages of lesser importance are called angels, and those who convey messages of great importance are called archangels.”
And St. Bernard, full of wonder at God’s care for our earthly life, explains the role of the angels. Thus, “You send O God, blessed spirits to do us service, commission them to watch over us, and command them to educate us. You have commanded your angels to guard you in all your ways… They are, therefore, with you to help you; they are not only with you but also for you. They are with thee to protect thee; they are with thee to prosper thee.” God sent the angels we think of today to deliver critical messages in salvation history, which is why we call them archangels.
The archangel Michael, whose name means “Who is like God,” was tasked with protecting first the chosen people, now the Church, from the main threat posed by the evil spirit. He is the victor over the demons. When we feel threatened by the workings of malevolent power, we have the help we need in the archangel Michael.
Archangel Gabriel, whose name means “God has shown His power,” has been given the task of proclaiming the great works of God. He announced the birth of John the Baptist and also Jesus Christ. His messages showed a God who has the power to do things infinitely beyond human ability. When we feel helpless and have humanly insoluble problems in life, we have help from the Archangel Michael to believe in God’s omnipotence and providence.
Archangel Raphael, whose name means “God has healed,” has the task of helping us in our sickness. Jesus, through his public ministry, clearly demonstrated God’s will to heal in body and soul. The Archangel Raphael brings us God’s graces to heal when various illnesses occur.
Let us repeat: Today’s feast reminds us that God cares for our happy life on earth and a glorious eternity and provides every necessary help for this. There is one more critical thing concerning how his service comes to us. This is the subject of today’s Gospel. Jesus said to Nathanael and the other disciples, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This means that God’s angels will come with God’s help only where Jesus Christ is. And Jesus Christ is always where two or more believers gather in Jesus’ name. Just as Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus, so we should bring others to faith in Jesus Christ and then to prayer together.
In everyone’s life, there is an event that happens or is happening now, that a person is misunderstood, no matter how hard he tries, people do not understand him, do not want to understand him. Those from whom he least expected it throw logs in his way, making his life complex and unpleasant.
Today’s Gospel is strange in that the evangelist Luke describes the rejection of Jesus in a particular Samaritan village. At the same time, Jesus rejects another with words when he offers to be his disciple: “The foxes have their hiding places, and the birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58). And immediately afterward he says: “Follow me!”, but he refuses and says: “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (Lk 9:58-59).
From these words, we feel a reminder of the fact that every person, without distinction, has a specific, God-given mission. Jesus, too, has a mission. He has to restore humanity to God the Father.
For the rejected good, there must come a great love that will undo the rejection. Jesus goes directly to meet suffering, death, and resurrection, first to be infamously rejected by the world, by his fellow citizens, even the apostles, then to gloriously end his pilgrimage on earth in Jerusalem with his ascension.
On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus must pass through the hostile territory of the Samaritans. If the traveler confessed that he was traveling to Jerusalem, he put himself in danger. It often happened that Samaritans robbed or even killed such people. The Samaritans hated Jerusalem and everything connected with it. After Solomon’s death, they despised and rejected the Israelites, so they stopped going to the Temple in Jerusalem and offered their sacrifices in Samaria on Mount Gerizim.
Jesus does not want to reject anyone. Remember also the Samaritan woman to whom Jesus offered the water of life.
And now his messengers have returned sadly. The apostles are furious because of the rejection. Some glorify Jesus, and these Samaritans reject him. The most irritated are the sons of Zebedee – the “Sons of Thunder” – the “Boanerges,” as Jesus had already named them at their election.
They interpret this rejection as an insult to the Master, and the matter deserves to be punished. And so it occurred to them that they had recently received power from the Master to cast out devils and to work miracles. Therefore, they demand that he allow them to use this power in return for their refusal of the Samaritans. Jesus, however, rejects the zeal of the apostles. They are petty, bigoted, and earthly-minded. They are more concerned with revenge than with justice.
The first condition for a disciple of Jesus is patience with failure.
Rejected, Jesus goes away to be rejected by him. Why? Jesus leaves because there is only a momentary soulfulness in this man’s words, I will follow you wherever you go, and not the result of mature reasoning. But Jesus accepts him in the true sense of the word. He tells him so that he will understand. The one who follows him in this way quickly sobers up.
The second condition for the disciple of Jesus: is to learn to struggle with obstacles.
The life of Jesus is full of poverty and discomfort. He was driven out of Nazareth by his fellow citizens. He had no place to be born as a normal human being, but was rejected; he was born in a stable. He knows that he will be rejected by the nation and live to see the greatest disgrace of his time, namely, death on a cross. And now, he is left, even by the hospitality of a Samaritan village.
Jesus whispers to you at this moment: With me, it is often challenging. You will not usually have a roof over your head for me; I will only offer you the same hardships I have now. You, too, may be rejected.
Jesus compares himself to the animals: ‘The foxes have their hiding places and the birds of the air their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Lk 9:58).
Consider: the disciple’s situation will not be better than the teacher’s. We don’t know how it turned out, but Jesus tells the next person: “Follow me!” (Lk. 9:59). This one, however, begs Jesus to allow him to hold his father, who has just died. Jesus does not allow him to do so, though he asks only for a reprieve of a few days. “Let the dead bury their dead. You go and proclaim the kingdom of God!” (Lk. 9:60).
We wonder what manner of ways it is that a man cannot even say goodbye to his father for the last time. After all, it is human and natural! And what about things after the funeral? Everything needs to be put in order. The bereaved mother, the siblings…
The request is legitimate, and yet Jesus refuses it. Jesus knows this one would get entangled in unnecessary worries, and he calls him elsewhere. He asks for such a sacrifice and will not tolerate any delay.
And he tells the third one to his face that he is not fit for the kingdom of God. He is not working for it. Jesus sees straight to the heart. Jesus calls and wants the one called to serve him, to share his joy and sorrow. Jesus is stern.
Did I see myself in any of the characters?
In the behavior of the Samaritans who refused to accept Jesus, are we overzealous at all those who harm the Church and want to call down death, disaster, and sickness on them? Let us not be petty; let us not be earthly-minded.
Or do we want to follow Jesus blindly?
No, Jesus does not want blind love. Jesus accepts us when we put obstacles in our way. Jesus then prepares us for the difficulties of confessing his teachings. Jesus wants our whole hearts. That’s why he calls everyone: Follow me!
Today, in this society, in this century, he wants us to be apostles, messengers of peace, truth, and the Gospel. He does not want us to look back once we have put our hands on the plow. For encouragement, let us recall the words of Jesus: “and whoever for my name’s sake forsakes … father and mother … …shall receive a hundredfold…” (Mt. 19:29).
Don’t put off your work as an apostle – when I retire, I will walk… Then you will be sick, infirm, and who will guarantee that you will live to see tomorrow, let alone old age? Nobody has the right to tell Jesus that he doesn’t feel, doesn’t want to, or doesn’t have the talent. Ask, and ye shall receive, seek, and find – the answer to these problems.
We have many examples in the Church to learn from. John Fischer was a bishop and martyr, but also Thomas Morus, a chancellor, judge, scholar, philosopher, and finally a martyr. You know the events surrounding these martyr-men of faith from the book U m m r i, b l a z o n!
Both lived during the reign of King Henry VIII of England. One was his tutor and teacher, and the other his chancellor, the chief magistrate of the land. When the king succumbed to the whims of women that ended in violent death, these two got no fear and followed Jesus faithfully. Why? Because they cared more about the honor and glory of God than the sympathy of a king who demanded public apostasy and public sin from them. They accepted Jesus. Thomas’s wife and daughter came to Thomas in prison and begged the father to sign away the king’s evil. No, he would not betray himself, his convictions. He will not reject Christ, who wants to live in his life. He can be called a “fool” by an absolute fool – King Henry VIII. For this stubbornness, he was beheaded on July 6, 1535.
We have realized, we have convinced ourselves, that the rejection of Christ is the greatest ingratitude of man and especially of the Christian, the most incredible nonsense and an insult to God. Let us be proud to be Christians and therefore accept the invitation – Follow me – even in the words of this prayer:
Lord, though all the world may not understand us, you know a loving heart. We want to apologize for the lovelessness of the world that rejects the love of Jesus. Thank you for the invitation and give us the strength to move forward without limitations, excuses, rash questions, and forceful words.