Sunday Sermon for October 9, 2016, the Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: 2Ki 5:14-17; 2Tim 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19
There is an old saying that states that converts make the best Catholics. There are, of course, several reasons for this; there are also numerous exceptions to this rule that can be easily demonstrated in the lives of the Saints. However, like so many generalizations, there is obviously some truth to the statement.
One could say that a convert makes a decision as an adult to become Catholic. Because of this, they study the Faith as an adult and before they ever convert there has been a deliberate decision on their part to seek out the truth and to live it. Contrast that with so many of us who were born and raised as Catholics. Many have not learned anything deeper about their faith since they were confirmed. Very frequently, this means that they have done nothing with their faith since they were in eighth grade.
This means that they have only an immature understanding of what the Church teaches. In way too many cases, people do not want to learn anything more about the Faith. Either it is not important to them or they do not want to be bothered by the truth. So, those who convert are most often seeking the truth; those who want to live like pagans do not want the truth.
It is a human problem that we tend to think that what we have already must not be all that good. We think that if we were to go somewhere else that things would be better. At the same time, we also have the tendency to either take for granted what we have or, far worse, hold it in contempt. This is a problem with many who have been Catholic their whole life, while those who are converts more often recognize the treasure they have and they do not take it for granted because they have not always had it.
All of this is being said because in the readings today we hear about three converts: Namaan the Syrian who converted to the worship of the one true God, St. Paul, and the Samaritan leper who returned to thank Jesus for his healing. We can also recall our Lord’s words on several occasions in Scripture where people who were not Jews demonstrated great faith.
For instance, not only does Jesus refer to Namaan and point out that there were many lepers in Israel at that time who were not healed, but He also refers to the widow of Zarephath at the time of Elijah, He exorcised the daughter of the Canaanite woman because of the faith of the mother, and He told His listeners that He had never seen such faith in all of Israel when the pagan centurion believed that Jesus did not need to come to his home to heal his servant, but He needed only to say the word and the servant would be healed.
There are still more examples that could be cited, but these serve to make the point. On the other side of things, it was the people of His own home town who first rejected Jesus because they knew Him. It was the Chief Priests and the Pharisees who were plotting to put Him to death. Of course, there were many faithful Jews who followed our Lord and even gave their lives for Him. His own Mother was the greatest of His disciples, the Apostles all brought the Gospel to foreign lands and were put to death for their efforts. Mary Magdalene and so many others who experienced the healing and forgiveness of Jesus were willing to take up the Cross and follow Him.
Seeing things laid out this way, each of us needs to ask our own self how we are doing with our faith. Do we just go through the motions but not really live it out zealously? Do we truly make our Lord the center of our lives through daily prayer, frequent reception of the Sacraments, loving God and neighbor, following the Commandments, etc.? Are we grateful to God, like the Samaritan leper, for all He does for us? Like Namaan, are we willing to endure hardship in order to give worship to God only?
St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that God is faithful, even if we are not. But, he says, if we deny the Lord, the Lord will deny us. We may not deny Him directly, but taking our faith for granted, not wanting to learn or go deeper in faith, not praying, failing to be grateful, not living the faith daily, are all ways of denying Him. We need to learn from the examples placed before us today, those mentioned earlier, the Saints, and the many converts we all know, and strive to be faithful in both word and action.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.