Pope John Paul was once asked where gays were in a church that seemed to reject them. He responded with no hesitation, “They are in the heart of the Church.” There are so many human beings who need to be reminded that they are in the heart of the church. So beautiful a reality. In the gospel, 10 lepers are healed, which meant that not only was their health restored but their human dignity. They were welcomed in the heart of the community. Most powerful in this gospel story: one of the 10 was a Samaritan, one considered unclean and outside the community of faith. Only this one healed human being returned to say THANK YOU. The dreaded outsider became the hero and focus of Jesus’ teaching.
A life of gratitude is one which the person knows deeply the Source of blessing and healing and mercy. The Samaritan connected the healing with Jesus and this connection erupted in gratitude. Those who were witnesses to the healing and Jesus lifting up the Samaritan as a model to be imitated certainly infuriated many. It is so easy to fall into the trap of separating ourselves from those we deem as undesirable, detestable or deplorable. Víctor Hugo called them in the title of his magnificent novel, the “miserables.”
Jesus is calling us, begging us, to see our lives as a blessing, God being the Source of our every breath. We are NOTHING without God. The call of the gospel is to live out of this connection to Divine Love, so that we can take our place, shoulder to shoulder, with the outcast and separated of our world. We, ourselves, are just as much an outsider because we sin and forget that God loves ALL, especially the ones who are forgotten or pushed to the sides. Spiritual altzheimers is a horrible “disease,” causing so many problems.
Our church and our parish must be deeply rooted in The Eucharist, a word which means gratitude and thanksgiving. Our faith community needs to continually reach out to transform the stranger into a neighbor. Refugees and undocumented immigrants, the one who is gay, the sick and suffering, human beings sold in the lucrative business of trafficking, children being formed by violence, those who can’t afford a doctor, people filled with fear, anxiety and depression, all these are in the HEART of the Church. Our call is to be a community of healing and a parish that brings those who are alienated or disconnected into the HEART of our life.
As I am learning on this Camino, not everyone welcomes this message for it is uncomfortable. Jesus seeems intent on making us think about our lives and our privileges. He seems to want us to try and create a world where all can work, be educated in fantastic schools, have the ability to care for their health and live without the fear of violence. This world is nothing more than the Kingdom. The people who are the key to the unfolding of this Kingdom are those on the sidelines being refused to be part of the team on the field. Yes, I actually used a sports metaphor, I minor miracle in itself.
May our parish never relagate people to the sidelines. May our Eucharist and parish life be even more reflective of the world of different cultures and languages. May all “Samaritans” find a home here, which can only happen if we count ourselves as a “Samaritan.” It’s amazing how everything changes when we walk in the shoes of the outsider. May each one of us be healed of our spiritual leprosy and may we run into the arms of Christ only to say THANK YOU.