People sometimes feel chained. They feel chained to their nature, chained to their circumstances, chained to their age, their race, their gender, their intelligence, their religion, their family of origin.
One area of life under which people feel particularly weighed down is when they feel chained to their choices. In particular, they sometimes feel chained to their past, to an event, a decision, a choice – it weighs upon them. This is spiritually important because they are not being able to let go of “that thing.” They feel that it disqualifies them from God’s forgiveness and goodness. They think, “I am like the lepers in that Bible story. I am an outcast, not worthy of God’s grace.”
Today’s readings confirm this. In Galatians 3:22, St. Paul writes that, “Scripture confined – or chained – all things under the power of sin. We were held in custody under law, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ.”
What are we talking about here? We are always guilty. As St. Paul writes in Romans 7:7-25, We, and our guilt, was chained to the law – a law to which we were accountable, but which we could never possibly follow because of Original sin and the fact that “the law” doesn’t bestow upon the power to actually fulfill the law.
So, let’s consider the Gospel and the story of the 10 lepers. Father Greg Friedman, OFM from the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, (See video for October 9, 2016) talks about Francis of Assisi who wrote a commentary about today’s Gospel reading. St. Francis writes that in this story, Christ breaks through TWO social barriers. He speaks with and heals the 10 lepers (who were social and medical outcasts) and speaks with and forgives a Samaritan (who was a religious outcast). That is key and reflects the sentence in today’s Second Reading (1 Timothy 2:9) where Paul writes that because that, “The word of God is not chained.” God is not chained by nature – he heals lepers; raises up the dead. God is not chained by time. Christ’s grace goes “back in time” to “baptize” and erase the Original Sin of Mary (The “Immaculate Conception”) – a grace that will not be poured out from The Cross until 40 years later. God is not chained by circumstances – Christ breaks through the two social barriers concerning lepers and Samaritans.
In my bulletin reflection today I wrote about the “7 Habits of Holy People.” There are two aspects of point #5, “Forget Yesterday” that are germane to the way Christ “breaks barriers.” First, your history is not your destiny. Ask the Lord to help you be good to yourself, accept His grace and leave it behind. Second, we should not simply forgive and forget. Scar tissue is tough. Christ can use your wounds as a strength for the Kingdom. In this month’s Magnificat (October 2016) Father Donald Haggerty (St. Agnes, NYC) writes that, “Once we are in the habit of thanking God for all that is happening in or life, including the harder challenges, a new realization awakens. Providential nature of events begins to show itself more.” Christ never burns or buries resources, He can recycle it.
Audio version of the homily is here: