The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
II Kings 5:14-17 + 2 Timothy 2:8-13 + Luke 17:11-19
Catechism Link: CCC 1272
October 9, 2022
… if we persevere we shall also reign with him.
“This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with Him we shall also live with Him….” Saint Paul, in saying this, is not subscribing to the belief that some Christians hold: namely, that Jesus suffered and died so that you don’t have to. In fact, Jesus suffered and died so that your suffering and death would not be meaningless: so that your suffering and death would not be a brick wall, but a doorway.
Living with Jesus is our goal. Dying with Jesus is our means. Dying with Jesus is the way by which we enter into Jesus’ life. But the choice is ours.
The first way that we can die with Jesus is baptism. Now, you might say to yourself, “I was baptized as an infant, so I don’t remember anything about my baptism, and besides, that was a long time ago. A lot of sins have passed under the bridge since then.” Nonetheless, it’s important to look back at what happened at your baptism.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul asks: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” [Romans 6:3-4].
One of the important truths that St. Paul is setting down is that the effects of Baptism don’t completely vanish once you commit your first mortal sin. On the contrary, dying and being buried with Jesus in baptism changes a person’s life forever. The Sacrament of Baptism marks one’s soul with an indelible mark or seal that cannot erased later in life even by the worst of sins.
But what exactly is this mark or seal that Baptism imprints upon your soul? You’ve probably seen individuals who have towels in their bathrooms with their initials on them. It’s something like that with your soul, except it’s not your name, but God’s divine Name that’s imprinted on your soul. This mark or seal is God’s way of saying, “This person belongs to me. This person is my child and is destined for Heaven.”
Clearly we need never to presume upon this great gift, but there is a flip side to this coin. The other side reminds us that with every gift comes a responsibility.
The first responsibility that comes with every gift is gratitude. The great English journalist G. K. Chesterton once wrote: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder” [A Short History of England]. The responsibility of gratitude is illustrated by Our Lord in today’s Gospel Reading.
“Where are the other nine?”, Jesus asks. “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” This “foreigner” was a Samaritan, a group of Jewish people not only looked down upon by most other Jews. The Samaritans, in fact, were people who refused to worship as God had asked in the Old Testament. Nevertheless, in spite of this fact, Jesus praises this Samaritan because he knows the first responsibility of being given a gift: that is, to give thanks in return.
The second way to die with Jesus is through our moral life. When we decide whom to vote for in November, and when we decide whether or not to participate in gossip that someone else in the room initiated, and when we decide whether to spend money for luxuries, or for necessities, or for others, we are making moral choices.
Some moral choices are easy to make, but others demand a difficult dying-to-oneself. It’s not difficult for a mother to love her infant and take care of him, although it might be more difficult at 2:00 a.m. Nonetheless, the bond of love between mother and infant moves her to care for the child even when that requires self-sacrifice.
But other forms of dying-to-oneself are far more difficult, such as choosing to love someone who is not lovable, as an infant so naturally is. This is akin to Christ’s love for you on the Cross. His crucified love, in turn, has the power to lead you into the heavenly love who is the Most Holy Trinity, and even to let you dwell within this love during your earthly days.