28th Sunday Ordinary Time
Year C

If We Have Died with Him, We Shall Also Live with Him.

In the spring of 1982, the Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, carried a statement that must have startled most American readers. It said that John Paul II had approved the official opening of the cause of canonization of an American priest who had died as recently as 1957. His name was Fr. Solanus Casey, O.F.M. Cap.

"Who?" I asked myself. I had never heard of this Detroit Franciscan.

That appears to be the point. Fr. Casey was being considered for sainthood precisely because he was a man of outstanding simplicity and humility, who shunned the spotlights. Bernard Casey, born at Oak Park, Wisconsin, in 1870, was the sixth in line of the sixteen children of very ordinary Irish immigrant parents. "Barney" quit school at 14 in order to help support his family, now at one job, now another (including that of a streetcar motorman). Meanwhile, he felt that he was ultimately called to the priesthood. The Milwaukee archdiocesan seminary accepted him, but he could not master Latin and German, as the course required, so he was dropped from its rolls. This set him thinking that his call might be to a religious order. He turned to the Capuchin Franciscans. They welcomed Barney, and on December 23, 1896, he was formally received and given the religious name "Solanus". Once again, however, he had trouble with Latin vital for priestly studies. The superior did call him to priestly ordination in 1904, but because of his deficiencies in theological studies, he was permitted only to offer Mass and never to preach or hear confessions.

Solanus accepted their judgment with perfect good grace. Wherever he was assigned, whether in Milwaukee or in New York's Harlem, he held the humblest offices: doorkeeper, sacristan, trainer of altarboys, moderator of the young women's sodality. In addition to these tasks, however, he developed an effective special apostolate to the poor, the sick, the people with problems. As Pope John Paul II might put it, Solanus did "ordinary things in an extraordinary way."

If this "unknown" American friar is ever deemed worthy to be declared a saint, we can praise the Father in Christ's word, "What you have hidden from the learned and clever you have revealed to the merest children," (Matt. 11:15). In a country like ours where people are liable to give wealth, position and comfort the highest priority, Barney Casey will also remind us of St. Paul's more sober assurance to Timothy, "If we have died with Him we shall also live with Him." (Today's second reading.)

-Fr. Robert F. McNamara

Q445: Nine of the ten lepers in the Gospel story (Luke 17:11-19) really did what Jesus told them to do. Why do they seem to be portrayed in an uncomplimentary way?

I hope you picked out the two “surprises” in the Gospel story. The first surprise is that only one of the ten “healed” lepers returned to thank Jesus for his gift. The second surprise (at least for Jesus’ audience) was to find out that the only grateful person was a hated Samaritan.

Now, I believe that there is a deeper lesson being taught here; that lesson is much more than a simple “reminder” to be grateful for blessings received. Look farther down the road, as the ten lepers headed towards Jerusalem to “show themselves to the priests.” Do you really think that a hated Samaritan would even be allowed into the Temple without opposition? When the ten men recognized their healing, only the Samaritan turned back to give thanks. Is it possible that the “nine” Jewish lepers thought they had “earned” the healing, by responding with faith to go to Jerusalem? We don’t know. But I think it very possible that the “deeper” meaning is this: only a Samaritan – like the one who had earlier in Luke’s gospel demonstrated that he truly was the only “good neighbor” to someone in need, the injured traveler – only a Samaritan knew where the REAL presence of God could be found. Not in the Temple, where the other nine went to give ritual thanksgiving in obedience to the “law.” Rather, he went to Jesus, the source of his salvation, to give heartfelt thanksgiving in obedience to the gratefulness in his “heart.”

The most important “memory” event of a Jewish person’s life was to recall that transforming day of “salvation” at the Sea of Reeds centuries earlier. This was celebrated by them in a ritual festival called Passover. But now, when the salvation of “wholeness” is once again demonstrated to ten lepers in a real experience of the same saving power of God, only the Samaritan remembers and returns to the source of healing, Jesus. Lesson: healing is not dependent on the size of your faith; it is only God’s Gift that causes transforming events.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Have you ever considered that it is a duty and an expression of gratitude to visit the Blessed Sacrament, to thank Jesus for his gifts to you (CCC #1418)? Learn from the Blessed Virgin Mary, who confesses with gratitude that God has done great things for her (CCC #2097).

Give Thanks to the Lord Invoke His Name
The reading from the second Book of Kings is strange. Why does Naaman haul away a pile of dirt?  What is so special about Palestinian dirt?  We have to remember that Naaman was a Gentile, a pagan and in those days people connected a god and his power with a particular locality. You were closest to the god and his power when you were in his territory. Naaman had experienced the power and the mercy of the God of Israel and had come to believe that this was the only God, the universal God. He wanted to give thanks and praise for his cure by offering sacrifice on an altar built on soil from Israel. This would be a sign of unity with the land of Israel where God was present in a special way.

St. Luke tells us of another foreigner cured of leprosy. Jesus tells the ten lepers to go to the priests and fulfill the requirements of the Mosaic Law. For the leper this presented a problem. He was a Samaritan --Which temple should he go to? The Jewish temple in Jerusalem or the Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim? Like Naaman he has a concern for the proper place to find the presence of the Lord. But then he realizes that neither temple is the place to find God's presence. The place to find the presence of God is the person of Jesus Christ. Here, wherever Jesus is, that is the place to encounter the healing presence of God and it is there he should give thanks and praise to God. These stories remind us that God's mercy and gifts are not limited by the barriers which we humans set up.

Lord, may we follow the example of Naaman and the Samaritan. Remind us of the many gifts we have received from your hand. May they inspire us to give you thanks and praise for all you have done for us. Forgive us for the times we fail to care and love those around us.