Sermon for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost -August 19, 2018 by Father Paul Alvarez Norton
Father began the sermon by reciting the Hail Mary.
The great majority of the Fathers of the Church say that this gospel is about gratitude. Since they are many and I am not alone, I will do the same as they used to do, repeating the interpretation that has always been made. But I will also say that the liturgy of today talks about the capital importance of going to the one true faith. In this sense we can say that from the beginning there is an emphatic promise of Christ to the lepers that refers directly to the faith. He commanded them to appear before the High Priest as a requirement after healing, not before. As we see, the healing begins with a request for trust and ends with an emphasis on faith. “Your faith has saved you”, sayeth the Divine Master to the grateful leper, but safe from what? Mainly of the leprosy of the soul, as St. Augustine would say; that is, of sin. And this particularity is clearly seen when one notes that the other nine were also saved from the leprosy and without a public profession of faith. Everyone at first had confidence in the Rabbi they saw in front of them, a teacher, a prophet, but simply a man. Only one of them, a Samaritan, traditionally considered an idolater and a sinner, returned and recognized in Christ the source of health and prostrating himself before Him adored Him as God. The prostration in the Eastern culture is a posture usually reserved for the Divinity. And there is another teaching in this gospel. We must learn to listen to God’s Will to discern our priorities. Sometimes the goal is not the end; the goal is a way itself, what we discover in it. The Samaritan noted this and returned to give thanks. The reason for prayer is not only to ask God to hear us but also to help us to listen to Him. Now we can also make a timely parallel to these times of crisis of faith in which we live. The lepers like many Catholics suffering from modernism are faced with a paradox. What do they do? Follow the letter of the law which kills, or go to the Messiah; do they choose to blindly obey the hierarchy which leads to death or return to meet Christ. St. Paul in today’s epistle insists that Christ has absolute primacy over every law and as St. Peter would say, “We ought to obey God rather than man”. Modernism is certainly worse than leprosy because leprosy causes very obvious external soars that are easily noticed; but modernism is a deadly disease that generally does not allow the affected person to be aware that he has contracted it. This is why the first step toward detoxification is humility. We must also be careful not to commit the same error of the Pharisees, that is, to seek spiritual health only in the mechanical observance of precepts. If Christ has healed us we must bow before Him with humility as the Samaritan did who was more concerned about thanking Our Lord, contemplating Him, rather than denigrating his companions who did not return. When Christ asked him why the other nine did not come back he just remained silent. Finally, we must remember that in the battle of faith God helps and protects the one who sincerely seeks to do His Will. Certainly He doesn’t abandon us in our material needs but sometimes something more important is that He does not leave us alone in our struggle for the faith and the truth in the battle for His cause. For this reason the Introit of today asks not for health or material goods but it specifically says, “….arise, O Lord, and judge Thy cause, and forget not the voices of them that seek Thee”. May God give us the grace to be grateful always, remembering that heaven is the homeland of those who have the courage on earth to love the truth and fight for it for Him. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.