The readings for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time demonstrate a simple fact: when we think we have God figured out, He surprises us by working outside of our set expectations.
Recall your surprise in the times God came through for you when you least expected it. Perhaps it was by healing a severe relationship problem. Perhaps it was receiving the grace to forgive someone for a very deep hurt. Perhaps it was in overcoming the sin of anger, lust, unforgiveness or bitterness.
If you want to see a repeat of that kind of intervention in your life, get in touch with your profound gratitude for what it meant for you at that time. Think of what your life was like at the bottom of your frustration, and then the incredible joy of coming into a new freedom.
The more you get in touch with your gratitude for His intervention, the sooner you will see other similar surprise interventions taking place in your life. The surprise element opened your eyes to His love for you in your trials.
In the first reading, we have the story of Naaman, a Gentile and a leper. His servant girl was a captured Hebrew slave, who said that if Naaman wanted God to heal him, he should go to Israel.
He did, but he first went to the king of Israel, who sent him away thinking he was picking a quarrel with the king. When Elisha heard this story, he invited him to come for a visit. When Naaman came, Elisha sent his servant to Naaman and told him to bathe seven times in the River Jordan. Naaman felt insulted, thinking that the rivers back home were better rivers than the Jordan. But his servants reasoned with him: “If the prophet had asked you to do something very difficult you would have done it. Why not do the simple thing he asked you to do?”
Naaman obeyed and was healed. His gratitude toward Elisha was overwhelming. However, Elisha refused to accept any gift because it was God who gave this gift. Naaman said: “I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord.”
Let us move to the Gospel where we see more of the same. Ten lepers approach Jesus and ask for healing. All are healed, including the Samaritan. Samaritans, probably with some good reasons, hated Jews, and Jews hated Samaritans. Jesus had compassion on all lepers, regardless whether they were Jew or Gentile. The Samaritan is the only leper that returns to thank Jesus. I think that if we were able to follow that Samaritan’s life, we would see many more blessings that God bestowed upon him because of his expression of faith in thanking Jesus.
Just when we expect God to work in a vindictive way toward a criminal or a persecutor of the Church, God gifts that person with the gift of repentance, which robs Satan again of a prize catch.
Paul tells us: “If we are unfaithful He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” We find it impossible to live up to our own expectations, but God seems to say: “I don’t expect you to live up to your own expectations because then it would be you doing it, and I would get no credit for your ego trip. My role is to help you live beyond all of your expectations because then people will know that it is I, the Lord, working in and through you.”
God is a god of surprises. In the first reading, He surprised Naaman, and in the Gospel, He surprised the Samaritan leper, as well as all the people who heard about Him.
I suggest that you go back in prayer and reflect on the moments when God surprised you. How did that feel? Can you get back in touch with the gratitude you had for Jesus who gave you that transforming experience? Expect Jesus to do it again, and soon.
Once, a blind person asked a prayer group of mine to pray over her so that she could again read the Scriptures. Before we prayed over her, she hadn’t told us that for 15 years she had artificial eyes. Two days later she died in her sleep. Her mother came into the church at 5:30 a.m. with tears of joy, saying that her daughter wanted nothing more than to see God face to face. She got her wish!
God is glorified when people receive miracles in their lives. We are quick to believe that the world will get worse, but are you able to believe that you and I can turn things around with expectant faith?
Are you able to believe that the family member that left the Church will come back in answer to your prayers and fasting? Are you able to believe that your prayers for that family member are more powerful than Satan’s efforts to take that person away from God?
People come to me again and again and tell me the miraculous happenings in their families. My immediate response is: “Tell that to someone who has drifted away from God and nurture them with hope!” People get plenty of depressing information from the daily news. You and I need to share the good news of what Jesus does to those who seek Him in prayer.
The living Gospel of Jesus in our midst is the greatest thing on the face of the earth. Jesus wants us to share the good news, which uplifts and comes directly from Him.