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Thankful Leper“As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’ And when he saw them, he said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, ‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’ Then he said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you’” (Luke 17:11-19).
 
In Jesus’ time many people believed that the honor and shame of a person or family was dependent on many factors, including health. Good health was a sign that God had shown favor to the person, while ailments, either physical or mental, meant that one (or one’s family) had sinned. Leprosy was one of the ailments that many people associated with sin. Lepers lived on the fringes of society, as their disease was contagious and incurable. While we may feel that we do not stigmatize people because of their illnesses or handicaps, today’s reading invites us to look a little closer.
 
A disease like lung cancer, for example, might be seen as the end result of an addictive habit. Diabetes might be seen as the result of poor eating choices and exercise habits, or AIDS as a result of sexual behavior or drug use. These types of suppositions are not limited to just physical diseases. Some may view poverty as the result of a series of bad personal choices or a lack of personal drive rather than the result of systemic injustice. Until recently, few ever dared speak of the heavy burden of mental illness for fear of being thought of as “less than.”
 
How often do we confuse a person with his or her ailment? Or age, physical ability, looks, or favorite brand of clothing? That is not Jesus’ way—nor, Luke is saying, should it be the way of those who claim to follow Jesus.
 
The story is set in the context of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem which is a metaphor for a Christian life. Jesus’ journey, and so our Christian life, includes welcoming the ten lepers. Remember, Jesus breaks all conventions and violates what people of his time considered to be good sense in welcoming these lepers who were outcasts, not just because of some cultural prejudice, but because of a real danger to the community’s health. The point is that no one is beyond the healing love of Christ.
 
Luke pushes it even further. One of the ten lepers is a Samaritan, someone doubly outcast because he is both ill and a foreigner. Luke does not immediately tell us that the leper was a Samaritan; he waits until the man returns to thank Jesus. The others have done only what was required of them, what Jesus reminded them to do: show themselves to the priests who had the authority to readmit them to normal society.
 
Through the sacrament of reconciliation, the Church facilitates our return from the “leprosy” of sin. We are not just welcomed back; as part of the Church, we also have the task of facilitating and encouraging the return of others.
 
– How can you be an instrument of healing—physical, emotional, or spiritual—in someone’s life?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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artisan_potterSome 25,000 people attended Pope Francis’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square a few days after the canonization of Saint Teresa of Kolkata.
 
Before delivering his final blessing, the pope called on young people to follow her example and be “artisans of mercy.”
 
Why did he use the example of an artisan to illustrate his call for us to do God’s missionary work through “an authentic evangelic path?”
 
An artisan is a worker in a trade that demands special skills, especially work that involves producing useful things by hand.
 
Both Jesus and his earthly father, Joseph, labored as skilled carpenters. Using handheld tools, they shaped wood for new uses and, therefore, could be called artisans.
 
Men and women today create false images of God, the pope said. They often think of him as a “psychological refuge” that provides comfort during difficult times. Or they reduce Jesus to just another teacher of ethics.
 
These erroneous perceptions “cancel out his missionary impulse that is capable of transforming the world and history.”
 
Christians, Francis said, believe in the God of Jesus Christ, who wants us “to grow in the living experience of his mystery of love.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Lord Jesus,
grant us the gift of great faith
so that we can become signs and instruments of your mercy.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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mustard_seed_faith“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you. Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here immediately and take your place at table”? Would he not rather say to him, “Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished”? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do”’” (Luke 17:5-10).
 
Some students quickly figure out ways to do as little as possible while earning as high grades as they can. “Is this going to be on the test?” they ask in every class. Idealistic, dedicated professors find such questions exasperating, as if the knowledge they impart can simply be distilled down to a single exam in which students simply regurgitate information.
 
In this story Jesus is much like a professor. His top-flight students, the apostles, are seeking the gift of faith. He tells them something they may not want to hear: you who have been blessed are expected to do so much more. Don’t expect to be praised because you have done the barest minimum.
 
What Jesus expects is nothing less than the integration of our faith into all aspects of life. We who have been privileged to receive that saving message of Jesus can’t rest on our laurels. Luke is recalling the challenges of true discipleship — much more than doing just enough to get by. There are ways of nourishing this integration: personally through honest prayer and communally through our participation in the Sunday Eucharist, by service and by sharing faith.
 
If only we had faith as small as a mustard seed, we wouldn’t simply meet the barest minimum requirements: weekly Mass attendance and an occasional prayer uttered in a crisis. Instead, we would be on fire with faith and it would transform our lives. Its truth would grow in us, slowly and tentatively at first but eventually consuming us if we let it. In this test, we can’t be satisfied with just learning the answers. We will have to live them as well.
 
– In whose faith do you see evidence of a “faith the size of a mustard seed?”
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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sleeping_on_streetWho is the Lazarus among us?
 
Our newest saint, Mother Teresa, recognized him in alleys and gutters:
 
“The outcasts, those who are rejected, the unloved, prisoners, alcoholics, the dying, those who are alone and abandoned, the marginalized, the untouchables and lepers, those in doubt and confusion, those who have not been touched by the light of Christ, those starving for the word and peace of God, sad and afflicted souls.”
 
Like Lazarus in the parable, the poor thirst for water. But the new Lazarus, St. Teresa reminds us, also thirsts “for peace, truth and justice. The poor are naked and need clothing, but also need human dignity and compassion for those who sin. The poor have no shelter and need shelters made of bricks, but also need a joyful heart, compassionate and full of love. They are sick and need medical attention, but also a helping hand and welcoming smile.”
 
In other words, the Lazarus among us needs not only God’s mercy, but ours as well.
 
The psalmist knew this in his darkest hour when he sang, “Your mercy is better than life itself.” (Psalm 62)
 
And St. Augustine, too, confessed, “On your exceedingly great mercy, and on that alone, rests all my hope.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Jesus,
help us always be wholehearted in showing mercy to the needy among us,
just as you shower us with the full measure of your love.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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September 25 is the feast day of Blessed Hermann of Reichenau.
 
Blessed_HermannPeople of a certain vintage will recall a time when after every “low” Mass we prayed the “Hail Mary” three times and then “Hail Holy Queen” — known in Latin as “Salve Regina.”
 
When I was a youngster I said those prayers every Sunday and on the frequent weekdays when I was the altar boy for a daily Mass.
 
In addition, on most Wednesday evenings, I assisted at devotions to Our Lady of Fatima in which we prayed the rosary, followed by “Hail Holy Queen.”
 
I was always attracted to the “Salve Regina,” and in those days I was not yet aware of its remarkable origins.
 
That prayer — “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope” — is essentially a poem written by Hermann of Reichenau, an 11th century Benedictine monk who was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1863.
 
Hermann was a composer, a poet, a music theorist, a mathematician, an astronomer, and an historian.
 
The range of his scholarship and his achievements would have been remarkable if he had been in good health, but he was actually severely disabled.
 
He was born with a cleft palate and spoke only with great difficulty.
 
He had cerebral palsy and, researchers believe, either amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or spinal muscular atrophy. He could barely move and had to be carried from place to place.
 
Because his condition was so extreme, his parents couldn’t give him the care he needed, and they placed him with a community of Benedictine monks.
 
Hermann spent the rest of his life in a monastery, professing as a monk himself when he was 20 years old, eventually becoming the abbot. He died when he was 40.
 
Like Stephen Hawking in our own time, Hermann had a natural curiosity about the world around him, and a desire to learn, that were greater than his disabilities.
 
He was a well-known composer of religious music, and some of his work survives today. He wrote extensively about the science of music which, in his era, was considered a branch of mathematics. He also wrote on geometry and arithmetic.
 
He introduced to central Europe, from sources originating in Arabic Spain, a portable sundial and devices used for measure angles and distances in astronomy.
 
Also among his achievements in astronomy was accurately calculating the length of a lunar month.
 
Somehow, Hermann found time to write the first comprehensive history of the events of the first millennium, beginning with the birth of Jesus.
 
By the time he wrote the “Salve Regina,” he was blind.
 
It must take an almost unique combination of qualities for a person like Hermann to not only lead a productive life but also excel in multiple disciplines.
 
He may be an encouraging model for folks who have more than their share of physical challenges.
 
But while I have been spared any such disabilities, and even lesser ones, I apply Hermann’s example to myself, too.
 
Self- pity, fatigue, impatience, boredom, and indolence at times make it seem more attractive to patronize myself than to learn more about the world and put to good use what gifts God gave me.
 
But I think about Blessed Hermann, and I tango on.
 
This post first appeared in The Catholic Spirit, Diocsese of Metuchen.
 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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