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(Part 11)


November 14, 2012
Today’s gospel: Luke 17:11-19

Faith brings salvation. Jesus went to the cross and died for us, winning for us our salvation. When we accept him as Savior and Lord, that is, when we put our faith in him, then we are saved.

Salvation is a continuing thing. Unlike some born again Christians who claim that once they have accepted Jesus and are saved, then they are assured of eternal life, no matter what they do in life, we Catholics know that we need to keep working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12b). Yes we have been saved, but we need to live our faith in Jesus in order to experience the fullness of that salvation.

Further, the fullness of salvation means the fullness of the life of God. We not only meet Christ and accept Jesus as Savior, but we need to live Christ and accept Jesus as Lord of our lives. Ten lepers were healed (they experienced salvation), but only one went back to Jesus.

We learn much from today’s gospel reading.

One, we as sinners are all spiritual lepers. Lepers were outcasts in Jewish society. They had to live away from the people. “They stood at a distance from him” (Lk 17:12b). Apart from God we are cut off from His body on earth, the Church.

Two, if by the grace of God we know our condition of being cut off from the mainstream, then we seek re-integration. We desire to be cleansed of our infirmities. This can only happen if we seek Jesus. The lepers “raised their voice, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’” (Lk 17:13).

Three, Jesus tells us how to be cleansed, and if we obey, then we will be cleansed. “And when he saw them, he said, ‘God show yourselves to the priests.’ As they were going they were cleansed.” (Lk 17:14). This also shows that it is not just a matter of a personal relationship with Jesus, but also a communal relationship with his body on earth, the Church. This is why we not only repent of our sins and ask forgiveness from God, but we also go to confession.

Four, the unfortunate truth is that people go to God in their desperation, but when the crisis has passed, they just go off on their own way, unmindful that God has called them to enter more deeply into a life in Jesus, with healing and restoration as only the primary steps. “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?” (Lk 17:17). This is where we need to appreciate the blessing of suffering. People who are comfortable and have many resources are hardest to bring to Christ. Why? They are self-sufficient and do not need God. But those who suffer loss, especially those plunged into severe crises, are those who in their desperation become more open to God. A crisis is often the gateway to conversion.

We need to understand the full meaning of faith. We must be like the one leper.

He, with the other nine, met Jesus. “As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.” (Lk 17:12a). Faith starts when we meet Christ. But that is just the initial step. Many meet Jesus in various ways. They may hear a Sunday homily, listen to a preacher on TV, be witnessed to by a friend, happen to read something in a book, see a religious post on Facebook, etc. However, they do not follow through on that meeting. We not only need to meet Jesus, but we need to get to know him.

“There were those who met Jesus but did not move on to get to know him. When Jesus healed the Gadarene demoniac, ‘the whole town came out to meet’ him, but only to beg him to leave their district (Mt 8:34). When Jesus entered Jerusalem, a great crowd ‘went out to meet him’ (Jn 12:13a), but they were only looking for a king with power to liberate them, and so later instead of crying out ‘Hosanna!’ they cried out ‘Crucify him!’ When Jesus visited Martha and Mary, Martha ‘went to meet him’ (Jn 11:20). But then she became busy with serving him. In contrast, her sister Mary ‘went to him.’ (Jn 11:29). Mary ‘sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.’ (Lk 10:39). Martha met Jesus, but Mary got to know Jesus.” (From the book “The New Evangelization--A Work of the Divine Family”).

Thus we need to be a friend of Jesus. We grow in this relationship. We communicate (in prayer), we listen to each other (yes, Jesus listens to us), we spend time together (a disciple with the Master), we enter deeply into each other’s lives (Jesus physically enters us in holy communion), we even give our life for the other (Jesus already did this for us).

“But to know Jesus means a profound encounter with the living God, with the one who is Savior and Lord. It means meeting Jesus and being profoundly touched by him. It may not be as radical as the encounter of Saul with Jesus on the road to Damascus. But it is an encounter nonetheless with the risen Jesus. It is meeting the risen Lord. Jesus is alive. It ultimately results in profound transformation. It cannot be otherwise.” (From the “The New Evangelization--A Work of the Divine Family”).

The one leper met Jesus, was healed and touched by him, and “realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” (Lk 17:15-16a). He did not just accept his healing and go off, like the other nine. He went to Jesus, thanked him and glorified God. We can presume that his life was radically changed from then on, not only because his leprosy was gone, but because he now knew Jesus, and he accepted the lordship of Jesus in his life, as he fell at Jesus’ feet. From then on he would live Christ. Profoundly touched and grateful, aware of his salvation, acknowledging Jesus as Master not just by word but by deed, from then on he would live the way of Jesus.

“So we see that once one truly meets and begins to know Christ, then he will start to live Christ. Once we have met Jesus, we need to grow in our relationship with him. We need to be transformed in Christ. We enter more deeply into our life in him. We need to be changed, as we are restored to the image and likeness of God in which we were created. We become worthy children of the Father. We become true temples of the Holy Spirit.

“So again, to live Christ is not just to be a good person. If that were the case, then we can say many Christians are actually living Christ. But it is much more than being a good person. To live Christ is to be holy as God is holy, to be a true disciple of Jesus, and to attain to the perfection of the Father.” (From “The New Evangelization--A Work of the Divine Family”).

Finally, Jesus said to the one former leper, “Stand up and go” (Lk 17:19a). Now that he had met Jesus, now that he would begin to live as a disciple, then he was to go back into the world and make a difference, especially by proclaiming Christ to others. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus sternly warned the leper he cleansed to “tell no one anything” but “the man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.” (Mk 1:43-44a,45a).

How can we keep the wonders of God to ourselves? Would we not burst if we kept the awesomeness of God to ourselves? Woe to us if we do not preach the gospel! (1 Cor 9:16). The gift we have received we are to give. We then need to share Christ. Like the instruction to the leper, we are to stand up and go. We are to go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature (Mk 16:15). We are to evangelize in the name of Jesus.

“Unfortunately, today Catholic laypersons are largely unaware of the call and duty to evangelize. For those who are still actively going to church, they are there to receive and to be served. They look to their own spiritual well-being. Most Catholics do not share Christ. They do not know the first thing about sharing Christ. They do not understand the process of evangelization. They might even consider this as something born-again Christians or evangelicals do, but not Catholics. But if that is the case, then such Catholics are not even true Christians. They are selfish, they are not obedient to God’s commands, and they are in effect against Christ.” (From “The New Evangelization--A Work of the Divine Family”).

God established His Church on the day of Pentecost, founded upon Peter, who functioned as the first pope. This church did rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization. His one true Church is the holy Roman Catholic Church, with an unbroken line of popes from Peter to Benedict XVI, the 265th pope. The mission of the Church remains the same. She is a missionary Church. She exists for mission. Why should Catholics not evangelize? Why should evangelization be associated just with evangelicals and the born again? “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Lk 17:18).

Jesus tells us today, “Your faith has saved you.” (Lk 17:19b). This is a call to meet Christ, to live Christ, and to share Christ. This is a call to the New Evangelization. This is a call to mainstream Catholic lay evangelization. In this Year of Faith, let us rejoice in our salvation and BE.LI.EV.E!

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