Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reflection on the Readings for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Salvation Through Identification

When approaching and considering the saving "event" of the birth, life, ministry, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, it's imperative to pose the basic question, "is the mystery of salvation a 'once and for all' occurrence that happened 2,000 plus years ago or is it an ongoing event that covers the entire sweep of history?" What is at stake in asking this question is whether salvation is a "static", "finished" affair with relatively little or nothing to do with our contemporary lives and history (i.e., something that we only experience definitively in heaven) or a "dynamic", "ongoing" mystery, constantly attempting to penetrate every "nook" and "cranny" of our lives and world (thus making it "ultra-relevant" to all that make up our lives and world). All three readings point to the saving mystery of God as being the type of mystery that is dynamic, ongoing, and ultra-relevant to all that makes up our lives and the affairs of our world. To tap the root of such a possibility and to allow the Lord's saving mystery of Cross and Resurrection to flow into our lives and world, transforming them in the here-and-now means a decision for total communion with the Lord; so identifying with him that, in the words of Paul, "it is no longer I but Christ." (Galatians, 2:20).

Three central-characters from each of today's readings point the way to how God's saving mystery can become something dynamic and "ultra-relevant" to our lives. In the first reading from the Second Book of Kings we meet Naaman, a gentile commander of the Armies of Ben-Haded II, King of Aram, who is suffering from leprosy (the entire story of Naaman is found in 2 Kings, 5:1-19). Naaman is recommended to the Hebrew Prophet Elisha by one of his servants (she has heard of Elisha's miraculous powers). Naaman follows up this recommendation by sending word to the prophet that he would like to be healed. Elisha than tells him to go the Jordan and wash himself and he will be made whole. He does so and is cleansed of his leprosy. Yet this is no mere physical healing. Naaman goes on to renounce his previous faith and professes his new faith in the God of Israel. So transformed is his faith that he arranges to have two mule loads of dirt from Israel brought back to his homeland in order that he may worship upon it. His healing and salvation is being realized through his identification with the Living God.

In Paul's second reading from Timothy, Paul says two things that evidence how the Lord's saving mystery has become ultra-relevant to his life. He tells Timothy, "Remember Jesus Christ, a descendent of David: such is my gospel, for which I am suffering." It appears that Paul has so identified with the Lord that he proclaims not only the Gospel of Christ as Christ's but as his own! Again, in the letter to the Galatians Paul states, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ."

Today's Gospel from Luke relates the story of the 10 lepers who were healed at a distance by Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). However, only one of the lepers (a Samaritan) returns to Jesus truly healed and restored, or made whole. The Gospel says that when the leper "realized" he had been healed, he returned praising God and threw himself at the feet of Jesus in thanks. The Greek word for "realized" means "to see" and in Luke connotes so much more than mere ocular perception. The Samaritan, Like Naaman and Paul, "sees" his life in a new light. His entire existence has been healed by God and he comes back to Jesus proclaiming not only the fact of his physical healing but also his new found faith.

The saving mystery of God, far from being a "one time event" continues to unfold and is meant to become a dynamic and "ultra-relevant" reality for our lives and world, just as it did for Naaman, Paul, and our Samaritan friend. For the saving mystery of God to become dynamic and "ultra-relevant" we need only come to identify so closely with the Lord that his Gospel becomes ours. How might this be done in a practical manner? Well, to begin with, since we are talking about relationship and communion with God, it is a life-long process! One way that we can come to identify with God's saving mystery is through the "baptism of our memory." Recently I spoke with a woman who admits that she is "stuck in the past" due to suffering the tragic loss of her son 22 years ago. Her chief complaint is that she cannot move on with life and goes round and round asking the question "why." Part of moving forward in her life may very well consist in allowing her memory of tragic loss to be united to God and Christ's in the Holy Spirit. What I'm suggesting is that her memory is not her own but is also present in the memory of God and can become a point of communion with the Lord such that the power of the Lord's cross and Resurrection can begin to dawn in her life in a new and unparalleled way - not bringing a facile explanation to the tragedy, but transforming it into a new way of "seeing" the event. When we bring the whole history of our lives and all our memories, good, bad, glorious, ugly, and even tragic, and allow them to be "baptized" in the Lord's saving mystery of Cross and Resurrection, we can come to know and "see" God's saving mystery at work in our lives and in our world. Pat, TOR