"Washed in the River" - Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Like Naaman the Syrian in our first reading, who washed and was cleansed from leprosy in the Jordan, I washed in the river at Lourdes and was cured. And like the leper who returns to give thanks, I want to publicly thank Jesus for healing me.
In thanking Jesus and the Blessed Mother for healing me, I also want to say that my brain tumor was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me and so I want to thank Jesus for the gift not just of my healing but also the gift of the tumor surgeries, radiation and chemo as well. Almost nothing in my life is the same since my surgeries radiation and chemo, and I have realized that all those differences in my life since the surgeries radiation and chemo have been blessings!
I thought I was offering up my suffering for the victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse, but I have realized that the number one person God used my suffering to help has been me. St. Therese wrote that the best thing God could have done in her soul was “to have shown her her smallness” And I would echo that in my own life as well…the greatest thing I learned through the tumor, radiation and chemo was my own smallness.
One of the first blessings after learning my own smallness was that I got off social media. Another blessing was that my suffering got me to get rid of my smartphone, and it got me off tv. Chemo got me eating healthier, and since I don’t have tv anymore I’ve been able to get tons more sleep.
All those changes in my life got me to start noticing my parishioners more. I always just thought I was bad with names, but it turns out that in my case, when I cut a lot of the noise and distractions out of my life, I AM able to remember names, and pray for parishioners by name and be more present to parishioners and those living in my parish boundaries.
Chemo and radiation and the suffering also got me to realize how often I was talking about people not present, spreading gossip and committing all kinds of sins with my talk. That realization has led me to make a promise to never talk about a person who is not present, unless it is to say something positive about that person.
I was and still am totally fine if I would die, but my tumor brought me to Lourdes and on that trip, in addition to the miraculous healing, I began to recognize God’s unwavering Love for me in that God answered all my thousands of prayers on that trip, and I began to see God’s love for me more clearly.
I think both of my parishes need a place where we can write down all the things we want to THANK God for. We are really good about asking each other and the parish for prayers, but we are not very good about thanking God for blessings and miracles. My prayer is that all of us, in the midst of the sufferings of our lives might realize two things:
1) Your personal suffering can be offered up for other people and bear real fruit in their lives
2) That God is able to use your personal suffering to help YOU, as I have just recently come to realize
Let us all resolve to give God thanks for all the miracles that He has worked in our lives, and wants to work in our future. The Mass is the greatest way that we can give thanks to God…it is the way God desires most clearly to be thanked. Eucharist means thanksgiving. So let us give thanks to the Lord our God, because it is right and just. May we be just like the leper who was healed, and let us return not just once, but again and again to Mass to say “thank you” to Jesus.