Homilette for Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Memorial of Saint Josaphat, bishop and martyr

(Titus 3:1-7; Psalm 23; Luke 17:11-19)

Why is Jesus annoyed with the nine men who do not return to give him thanks? Is he not aware that their first reaction after being completely marginalized by leprosy would be jubilation, not thanksgiving? Perhaps he is personally offended that all ten former lepers do not acknowledge his healing authority? Or is there another explanation, more characteristic of Jesus?

The Fourth Preface for Weekdays provides an intriguing answer to these questions. The preface is the prayer of thanksgiving that the priest makes on behalf of the people at Mass just before the consecration of the bread and wine. The Fourth Preface uses these words: “Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness but makes us grow in your grace.”

In the gospel Jesus is not upset because he feels slighted by the nine lepers who do not return. Rather he is sorry that they do not take advantage of the grace that God extends by our giving thanks. Jesus reveals God’s inestimable gift when he tells the grateful leper, “...your faith has saved you.” As terrible a curse as leprosy is, it cannot compare to the oblivion of eternal damnation. The tenth leper has found his way to everlasting life, the greatest of God’s benefices. The other nine may now have an easier path to walk on earth, but they still have to work out their salvation.