Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God.
His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean of his leprosy.
Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God…and he stood before Elisha and said,
“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”
Elisha replied, “I will not take it (for it would have been like a reward or payment)”
Naaman said: “(then) please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the LORD.” (2 Kings 5)
Jesus…traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,”Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them (and only one of them), realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God Jesus said in reply,”Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 17)
There is thing called “a bad forgetting.” It’s not a good thing.
A bad forgetting is to forget the blessings of the past, and act like they never happened, or to attribute only to our own selves our good turns. There is a verse in Psalm 8 that urges: Do not forget the works of The Lord!
A man had been in a life or death situation. He had prayed for a rescue. Unbelievably, it came. Yet it wasn’t long before he was forgetting just how dire the situation was, or how he had just been saved from the worst and likely outcome. Was he thankful? Was he changed? Sadly, no, because he wrote in his mind a new narrative and explanation for his getting out of the awful circumstances he was in—he wrote God’s part out of the event of his life. It’s a case of a bad forgetting.
Here’s another example. There are some well-off late 20/early 30’s people in affluent cities around the world. They have moved upward to success in these places, from wherever they came from. Their “bad forgetting” is now of how they live self-centered on their success, forgetting or ignoring what the past two generations of family left to them. Gone from their appreciation is the toil, sacrifice, faith, and generosity passed down to them by their immigrant grandparents and sacrificial support of their parents. As these well-off young adults revel in their material things and opportunities, they mistakenly act as if they provided for it all themselves, but that just is not the truth, but a re-writing or re-telling of things in their minds. It takes a lot of work and a spirit of denial to now live apart in their world, to forget from whom and where they come from—in their bad forgetting. For their elders, now in nursing homes and facilities for the aged—it’s a shame when they are almost ignored by this new generation. It’s a gad forgetting. It’s not a good thing. (I am not speaking for all young adults, of course, but for a segment of them—who are noticed missing or too out of the picture by health care workers and ministers to seniors.
We can now view with that lens of two examples the Word of God for today.
In the Gospel of Luke 17, there are nine out of ten people in a near immediate “bad forgetting.” Of them, Jesus asks a strong question: “Where are the other nine?” Only one person, a Samaritan, comes back to show gratitude to Jesus for their healing of leprosy. The other nine ‘forget’ to do it. Shame.
While Jesus did not do the miraculous healings for the acclaim or popularity or indebtedness of people it could bring back upon Him, it still would have been right for a healed leper to come back and thank Him, the Healer.
Luke 17’s account is about how Jesus has gone out of His way to Samaria and to a village of leper outcasts. Jesus proclaims a healing on ten of them, and sends them to a priest to confirm their healing and get let back into society. They will have to leave by faith in that miracle, but on their way out to society, and to a priest to declare them acceptable and healthy to society again, the ten get healed. As the story finishes, only one of the ten comes back to be thankful, who is the man who was the double outcast (a leper and a Samaritan). The other nine have a bad forgetting of the account, and re-think that Jesus’ blessing to them (since they weren’t healed until on their way to the priest). They wonder amiss: maybe something else that brought the healing. They dismissed Jesus’ part and God’s gracious healing. Maybe they thought they deserved the cure and wanted that God would remain Someone to blame, rather than praise. So goes the sin of “a bad forgetting.” The attitude of gratitude has little room to breathe in it.
That question of Jesus is really an awful question to hear: “Where are the other nine?” Or, perhaps, a question in the question: ‘Are those nine ungrateful and unchanged, except to prosper again?’
Let us take this to an application stage today….
There are people today who don’t show The Lord the thanks for His part in their lives—with a bad forgetting, or a part forgetting and dismissal of His key part in their lives. If they could hear the Lord wondering about them, like in today’s Gospel question of Jesus—they might want very much to imitate the one good Samaritan. He models to us a spirit of thanksgiving. He brings himself to the Lord’s feet in gratitude and worship. It is what we are called to do in The Sacred Liturgy each Sunday. The word “Eucharist” is a Greek word for thanksgiving. We come to Jesus, and present ourselves to God the Most High in Him, the worthy Mediator and Savior and Lord of the world and of heaven. We celebrate our healing of the incurable wound of sin and its consequences of death. We come to show great thanks—in our prayers, our communal gathering, our offerings to the Church in the collection, and our willingness to go forth from Jesus in happiness of salvation and to spread the Kingdom of Christ. Jesus says to the man: “Go forth, your faith has saved you.” It is much like the deacon’s words of dismissal at our Mass: Go forth, glorifying God with your life. Or, Go forth, and announce the Gospel of The Lord.
As Psalm 78 says: Let us not forget the Lord’s work upon us—and now of our healing in Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection—and let us not forget not the great mercy and goodness of Jesus to us (like the ten lepers whom He loved and helped.)
There is a thing called “a bad forgetting.” Then there is a truth and practice of a “good remembering.” Jesus said of His Saving Sacrifice and Lamb’s Supper ongoing: “Do this in memory of Me.” The Holy Mass is a good and living and ongoing remembering in thanksgiving.
While some people bash Christopher Columbus this weekend, as I have read of their heaping blame on him for all sorts of things, as a scapegoat—I’d like to recognize, instead, that the Lord used his voyage to cross the Atlantic with the Gospel and the Church to the Americas. Prior to 1492, there was no Catholic Church nor of any Christianity here from North to Central to South America. After Columbus, it all changed. In looking to the good of Catholic missionaries, and the amazing coming of Our Lady of Guadalupe four decades after Columbus ‘discovered” present Mexico and Mexico City, hundreds of thousands of native Catholics joined the Church after Mary’s visit, following the new world discovery, and millions more since, across the Americas, with Masses which have been prayed for the 527 years henceforth, such as ours today, as we celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ and His saving mysteries.
This need to remember the Lord and show appreciation in our lives is so clearly tied to our Christian practice. The Word today begs the question: How much do we pray to the Lord, Our Savior? How much do we attribute to God, in thanks? In our tithing of time or service or monies to the Church of Jesus’ work—how much is it? Is it a true act of recognition to the Lord?
There are some with a need to grow in this area! ‘Really!
Before we close the homily, let us see the connection of the Old Testament story of today to giving thanks and having faith in a Healing God. We heard of the Bible account of Naaman. Naaman, a man of heathen faith (or pagan), was a powerful and rich Syrian commander, but one who began to contract the illness of leprosy. He was desperate for a healing, so much so that he humbled himself and came to Israel to their healing prophet Elisha. As he reached Elisha, he got word sent out to him just to go wash and bathe in the Jordan River, in a seven-times-act of prayer of plunging into the Jordan. Naaman had rather expected some kind of impressive ritual magic, like was given by pagan healers and their cults, and Naaman had expected to have to pay big time riches for Elisha’s attention. Yet, in more humility, he was convinced to comply and do the bath ritual (which in Judaism was called a mikveh. As the story is told, the commander finds himself healed.
Is he a man with “a bad forgetting?” Will he also leave and forget of God’s goodness here him? The answer is no. Naaman is quite grateful. He still tries to give Elisha some lavish gifts, but what Israel’s prophet wants to see is if Naaman will be a changed man. He happily sees that Naaman is changed. Naaman renounces his former god Rimmon and he accepts the God of Israel as the one true God. There following in Naaman’s life, he can make his life a thanksgiving, and a witness, and he can give and support the things of the God of Israel foremost, as by with he is inspired. The mighty Naaman was remembered later by Jesus as a humble convert of faith, just about the best compliment a person can receive.
I think that the story encourages us to re-think or re-consider things in our lives, and of our priorities and of our faith, if there are things keeping us from the humble truths of our situation. Let a good remembering be our strength. Let our part in each Mass be a remembrance in that way. We remember the good the Lord has done for us, and how good and pleasant it is to be in community with Christ in His Dying/Rising mystery.