Sunday, October 09, 2022

Pathways of Return

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Readings: 2 Kings 5: 14-17; Psalm 97 (98): 1-4; 2 Timothy 2: 8-13; Luke 17: 11-19

Video: YouTube mikedye1

My dear friends, have you ever watched a boomerang flying back to the one who threw it? It can be quite fascinating. But according to Wikipedia, not all boomerangs return when thrown, only those that are designed to do so. So if a boomerang does return, it is acting according to its original design. We might even say that it is coming back to itself.

Can the same also be said about us? We may recall that, in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15, it is when the younger son came to himself that he also finally returns to his father (Lk 15:17 NRSV). So to truly find and come back to ourselves is also to return to our heavenly Father. The prodigal does this through repentance. In today’s scriptures, we see people doing it in other ways.

Like boomerangs, both the Syrian in the first reading, and the Samaritan in the gospel, return to the one who cured them of leprosy. But they do this not so much to repent, as to say thank you. And it’s important that we carefully ponder their actions, to realise to whom they are actually returning.

The first reading ends with Naaman expressing a solemn commitment to worship no other god except the Lord. Likewise, the Samaritan turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus in a sincere expression of worship. All of which clearly indicate to us that both of them believed they were returning not just to any earthly healer, but to God. As a result, not only were they cured of their ailments, they also came back to themselves. By returning to God in thanksgiving, they were able to claim the salvation that the Lord has shown to the nations.

And gratitude isn't the only other way to make a return. When Elisha refuses to claim credit for Naaman’s healing, when he declines to accept a present for it, isn’t he returning all glory and praise to God instead? And when, in the second reading, Paul bravely bears his own hardships, even to being chained like a criminal, isn’t he remaining true to himself by returning all glory and praise to the Crucified and Risen One, who had sent him out on mission, and whose example he is following?

So not just repentance for mistakes made, but also gratitude for gifts received, gratuity in service rendered, and generosity in enduring trials for the sake of the Good News. These are the paths taken by the people in our readings to return to God. Gratitude, gratuity and generosity. These narrow and rocky trails present a sharp contrast to the broad and smooth expressways of cutthroat competition, relentless profit-making and anxious self-gratification to which many of us are drawn by default, even as we keep yearning and searching for that authenticity and peace that often seems to remain stubbornly and frustratingly just out of our reach.

Sisters and brothers, with all due respect to Wikipedia, do you know what some people call a boomerang that does not return? A stick. What can we do to help one another become more of a boomerang and less of a stick today?

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