2 Kings 5:14-17 Ps. 98:1-4 2 Timothy 2:8-13 Luke 17:11-19

“If we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.” (2 Timothy 2:12)

Last Sunday, the disciples of Jesus came to him to say: “Lord, increase our faith.” And in response, Jesus said: “If you had faith as small as the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this sycamore tree, be rooted up and planted in the sea and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6). With faith, the world as a whole is under our control but without faith, we are ruled by fear, depression and anxiety.

This is the very point Jesus makes in today’s Gospel passage to the leper who returned to give thanks after his cleansing: “Your Faith has made you well.” Could it be that what is holding you back in life is your lack of faith, that is, your lack of expectation of better things to come? Let us now consider the lessons contained in today’s readings:

1. To Have Faith is To Obey

It takes one who has faith in God to obey his Words. As the book of Hebrews would say: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6). How can you please God when you don’t believe? The reason why you often struggle to obey God’s instructions is doubt; you either doubt the outcome of your obedience or you doubt the very existence of God.

A lot of Christians today do not believe that if they simply obey God’s commandments, they would achieve all their heart desires. A lot of church-going Christians today believe that to be successful in this life, they must get their hands dirty in some shady deals. Like Naaman who doubted the efficacy of the Jordan river, many Christians doubt the efficacy of obeying God. They think there are other waters better than the waters of God’s word and they end up remaining leprous all through life.

On the other hand, those who firmly believe in God have no problem obeying His instructions. They know that there is no other way. The lepers who met Jesus in today’s Gospel passage demanded healing from Jesus, they begged for mercy. Instead of praying for them, Jesus simply gave them an instruction: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” The lepers could have decided to protest, but they obeyed; they trusted the instruction of Jesus and the miracle happened while they were in the process of doing exactly what Jesus instructed. Miracles happen when we obey.

2. Obey God Even When It Makes No Sense.

Left to natural human reasoning, there is no connection between the request for healing and having to show oneself to the priests. Again, left to human reasoning alone, there is no connection between bathing in the Jordan river and receiving healing from leprosy. As Naaman noted, there were cleaner rivers than the Jordan in Israel such as Abana and Pharpar. But for his servants who spoke sense to Naaman, he would have missed his chance of healing. Something similar happened at the Wedding Feast at Cana. (Cf. John 2:5-10). The couple had run out of wine and Jesus instructed the servants to fill the jars with water. God’s instructions may seem awkward but they always deliver excellent results. We only need to trust God and obey.

Each time we are tempted, the devil tries as much as possible to make us doubt God’s love for us in giving us His instructions. The devil tries to make us think that God is withholding the pleasures of life from us meanwhile after we have fallen into sin, we realize that God alone deserves to be trusted; that sin (disobedience) always leads to pain, sorrow and regret.

How can we deny God by our lifestyle and still expect Him to grant us the favours we so desire? In our second reading, St. Paul tells Timothy: “If we endure, we shall also reign with him, if we deny him, he also will deny us.” (2 Tim. 2:12). It is easy for me to pray that God would not deny us but the truth is that before the cock crows tomorrow morning, some of us reading this message would have denied God three times. How can we be grumbling about God’s instructions and still expect to receive His favours? 

3. Another Word for Faith is Gratitude

Just as it takes faith to obey God, it also takes Faith to count our blessings. It takes faith to be genuinely grateful for what God has done. It baffles me to hear Christians claim that God has never done anything for them before. Such Christians are so blinded by what they want God to do that they forget there are many things God has done that they took for granted. They live in perpetual sorrow. To be ungrateful is to be unhappy Just as only one out of the ten returned to give thanks, only very few persons on earth live grateful, and thereby happy lives.

Jesus is surprised at the behavior of the others. He asked: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18). The fact that this man was a foreigner goes to show that the others received their healing with a sense of entitlement. For them, Jesus was simply “doing his job.” The reason many peoples are stuck in life, unable to achieve their dreams is because of this entitlement mentality; they find it so hard to say “thank you.”

If you cannot say “thank you”, you cannot be whole. The nine were cured of leprosy but only one was made whole. “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19). The nine were cleansed of their skin disease but only one was cleansed externally and internally. The nine experienced just one miracle but one experienced two; the miracle of the skin and the miracle of the soul (wholeness).

Learn to say thank you and your life would begin to turn around for good. Start with the little things. Thank everyone around you even if you paid them to do their job. Yes, thank people deliberately and repeatedly. First, it feels good to hear those words: “Thank you.” It gives you a reason to press on with life knowing there are people who appreciate your worth, people who want you. Secondly, thanking others reminds you that there are still good things in this life. Our minds are wired to focus on problems, we tend to remember only things that we hate and we never pay attention to the good things in life; those things we love. Saying thank you repeatedly helps to refocus our minds, to shift from negativity to things that really matter. 

4. The Best Thanksgiving is to Worship God in Spirit and in Truth.

Nowadays, when people hear thanksgiving, they become jittery. They begin to think in terms of bags of rice, tubers of yam, beverages, etc. or even money. There are families that even decide to skip church just because their names appeared on the roaster for family harvest thanksgiving. This is because we are yet to fully understand the meaning of thanksgiving.

To show his appreciation to God for curing him of leprosy, Naaman took various items to Elisha, the man of God but Elisha refused to take anything. Elisha wanted Naaman to know that his healing came from God and not from any human being. Naaman got the message and instantly became converted. Naaman swore never to offer sacrifice or burnt offerings to any other god other than the Lord.

To put it succinctly, God does not need our bags of rice, beans, yams etc. if these items are not accompanied by an inner disposition to serve Him wholeheartedly. (Read Psalm 50:7-14). If Naaman had dropped his gifts, he would have returned home clean from skin disease but still unclean by his worship of false gods. Due to Elisha’s refusal to accept the gifts, Naaman received two miracles; the miracle of the skin and the miracle of the soul (conversion, wholeness). This is what God desires of us, that we worship in spirit and truth. Even if you have nothing to offer, no money to put in an envelope, know that the thanksgiving God is interested in is your repentance from sin. 

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, increase my faith and let it reflect in my obedience and thanksgiving. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: 2 Kings 5:14-17 Ps. 98:1-4 2 Timothy 2:8-13 Luke 17:11-19)© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu