Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
When you have a powerful personal experience, you remember it for a long, long time. You remember everything about it, every detail, who was there, what happened and where it happened. Where it happened is an important part of the picture we have in our mind. The local, the place sort of anchors us in reality. I think we all have places where important things happened to us. A place where a person entered our life, a place where we decided to change our life or a place where our life changed in a significant way. We have a fondness in our heart for these places. A fondness OK but not quite over the top like Naaman the leper who was so taken with the place of his healing recounted in today’s first reading, that he took two mule loads of earth back to Syria with him. This earth represented his place of healing and the God who healed him. The picture in my imagination is of Naaman standing on the little spread of earth praying to God. It is a very touching story.
I don’t think anyone here has taken a load of dirt from the monastery back home with them but we do hear every so often that the monastery means a lot to people who visit here. For some it is a place of healing, a place of prayer, a place to meet God in a special way. I love the lines in Psalm 101, where the Psalmist is thinking about Jerusalem and says, I love her very stones, and am moved with pity even for her dust. The people in the Psalms are very visceral, deeply moved by what happens to them and what they experience and where they experience it. The very dust of Jerusalem calls out to them and they respond with deeply felt emotions of tenderness and compassion. If we look back into our lives, we all have places like this. They may not be numerous and our memory of them might be fading but they are there and have played and still play an important role in our life.
The Gospel today speaks of a village where the ten lepers where healed and only one came back to thank Jesus. This was a place where ten people had a life changing experience and were so excited about their new future that only one of them remembered to return to the place where his healing happened and fall down on the ground and thank the healer. The place was incidental the person was essential. Is that not the same with us? When good things happen to us, important and sometime life changing things there is always a person or persons involved. It can be a word spoken to us through the Scriptures, or a person reaching out in compassion, a movement of our heart, an awakening of our affections – it is always incarnational. We are spiritual beings but access to our spirit in not under our control. We receive rather than fabricate our life. You could even go so far as to say we are the ten lepers by the fact we all need healing. The lepers could not heal themselves nor can we.
When Adam and Eve were banished from Paradise each left with a curse on their head: God said to Adam, “you shall return to the soil from which you came. For you are dust and to dust you shall return” Gen. 3:19
Jesus took that curse upon himself when he became man. He had pity on our very dust. He made it a place of healing and redemption. Our earthliness is now a special place because Jesus sanctified it by making it his own. By his Body is our body saved. As one author has it: “When the soul is bound to God by means of the flesh that it is so bounded. The flesh is washed so that the soul may be cleansed from stain; the flesh is anointed so that the soul may be consecrated; with a cross the flesh is signed so that the soul may be strengthened: the flesh is overshadowed by the imposition of hands so that the soul may be enlightened by the Spirit: the flesh is fed with the body and blood of Christ so that the soul may be nourished on God.” Note 17 in ch. 1 of Fully Divine… by Michael Casey.