Lepers & Evangelists
#LepersAndEvangelists is the podcast for October 13, 2019, We were lepers before. Jesus healed us and we give thanks by evangelizing others. Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke17 #Lepers #Evangelists #DiocesanConference #SundayChurchAttendance #WeWillFeelLikeLepers
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/13/2019 The 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 17:11-19.
I was at a diocesan conference recently and it might as well have been a funeral for Christendom. The priests of my diocese were sitting around complaining about the encroachment of the extra-curricular sports complex in the United States on Sundays. “Sundays used to be open in the morning,” they moaned. “There was no softball, baseball, speech and debate contests, tournaments, and such on Sundays,” they seemingly despaired. “What to do? What to do?” they threw up their hands as attendance lags in all churches in the United States. And why shouldn’t it?
“What?!?” you say? “Aren’t you supposed to encourage us? Tell us how there is a soft pillow waiting for us if we follow Jesus?” “Aren’t you supposed to tell us that God is a nice god who does nice things for nice people?”
No! That is not my job. Here is my job: to preach on behalf of the God of the universe. I am supposed to say, “Hey, humans! If you haven’t noticed it has been millennia and you cannot get your act together! I forgive you. I want you to turn your hearts to me and to one another. This is my mission and it is going to make you different.”
We believe in being chaste before marriage. We believe that men and women are supposed to get married and have children. We believe that children are a blessing, not a burden. We believe that we should not lie and we should be honest. We believe that we should not seek love outside of marriage. We believe we should be satisfied with just what we need instead of hording as much cash as possible. We believe that we should treat the universe with love and care. We believe that the economic systems we have should not leave anyone poor, homeless, and without. We believe that the place we should be on Sundays is in Church, worshiping the one true God who made life possible. In short, we believe that we are healed of our sin. Good grief, there are so many things that make us so out of step with the American Dream, or with the dream to make it big or be famous. We are not the religion of big profits, but of sound prophets.
So, if you feel as though being a Christian makes you out of step, you should because, we are. The era of Christian morals having authority in the public square is over in the United States and in the West. In fact, referencing the Bible is no longer authoritative for our conversations in the public square. So, what are we to do? Are we to be like the priests at the diocesan conference? “What to do? What to do?”
The answer is really found in the Gospel reading for today and the message of the letter of 1 Peter. In our Gospel, Jesus heals lepers. Lepers, as you know, were shunned because of the contagiousness of their disease which left people disfigured. All who follow God or religion have always been lepers to one extent or another. So, the lepers in the story represent two groups: nine of them were Jews and one was a Samaritan, people who followed the Torah in their own way and were considered Gentiles by the Jews. So, it is the outcast of the outcast that returned to Jesus to say thank you for being healed. He is the only one who didn’t just follow the precepts of the Law, but whose heart was changed to give thanks for his healing.
We are Christians in a secular world. We believe that we have been healed of our sin and have continual access to this healing through reconciliation. So, we are lepers in this secular world. We are part of people who are religious, like the ten lepers. Yet, on top of it, we are the ones who come to the church and say thank you. We are more peculiar than the rest. We attribute our healing to the God of the universe and God the Son, Jesus Christ. This sets us apart as not better, but different.
This is similar to the churches to whom Saint Peter directed his letters. Both 1 and 2 Peter are about living in the world and not being of it. The letter of 1 Peter derives our unique situation from our Baptism. We were saved by baptism, says Saint Peter in 1 Peter 1:21. Baptism demands that we return to Jesus and thank him with our way of life. So, it is not surprising that the letter is prefaced somewhat early with this idea of us being the 10th leper. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into this marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people.” Just like the Samaritan Leper who was not accepted by the Jews because he was a Samaritan, and his own people because he was a leper, we are called to follow Jesus Christ. We return and acknowledge the healing of the Holy Spirit within us and declare these wonderful deeds through the way we live our life.
This is significant because 1 Peter was written during a time when Christendom had not started. Christianity was a persecuted faith then. We were not wanted by the Jews and we were not wanted by the pagan Romans. Christian worship on Sundays was scheduled very early because there was work to be done on Sunday. People came and worshiped in secret because of the hostility that the world around them had toward the faith. Does this sound vaguely familiar?
Yet, the response of the Church wasn’t “What to do?” “What do do?”. It was to get out and convert the world. It was to argue in the public square using whatever authority was prevalent and then move it toward the Scriptures. The answer was to live boldly and even lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel. This, my friends, and I do not understate it, is the same situation we are in, yet, better. We have the hindsight of seeing how worldly power and the Gospel have a hard time coexisting. Too often, the institutional needs of the Church won over and against the needs of the Gospel. So, here we are.
The truth is that the Church usually flourishes when it is in this position, of being on the outside looking in. When the Church is brave enough to proclaim the Gospel and die for it; when she, the Church, is a leper amongst the beautiful people of the flesh seeking world.
The only question is, what kind of a leper are you? Are you one who returns to the Lord and proclaims your thankfulness? Are you one who is glad to be clean and now you are done with it? Or, are you one who has been cleansed of your leprosy and cannot wait to heal others through bringing them to the One who heals, Jesus? Are you a leper or are you an evangelist? Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2019.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian