Saturday, September 09, 2006

The other nine, where they are?

after "With the Church - Meditations on the Topcs from Missal and Breviary" ed. by Fr M. Goossens OFM, 1962 by Gottmer-Gobrevi Publishing, Switzerland.


Jesus asked a question of the leper who came back, but received no answer; perhaps because such a question required none! He had come back to bring his own thanksgiving; was it his business to bring the nine others with him? Yet Christ's question seems to include a gentle rebuke. Does he not ask it also of us?
The were cleansed; one thanked. All men are saved; do even a tenth part thank God for their salvation? Is the percentage of those who are grateful even lower than that of the just in Sodom and Gomorrha? Jesus, in the course of centuries, has often asked the same question. It proves that he really holds us responsible for those who do not thank him, who despise him, turn their backs on him and go their own way, forgetful of the wonders of his love.
He is still as much pained by their behaviour as he was by that of the nine lepers. He asks us to thank him in the name of those who forget to do so; better still, to bring them with us that they may thank him in person. He cleansed us all together; he would have us thank him all together. The one who came back had not yet done all he should, by representing the ten; he ought to have used every effort to bring them with him. Even if he had not succeeded, his thanksgiving at least must not be lacking, if he would hear his Lord say: "Arise and go on thy way, thy faith has brought thee recovery."(Luke 17, 19)
O Jesus, I will try to bring you that which is lacking in mankind's love and gratitude. Make me understand and feel what you desire, and never spare myself, as long as I have not, by word and example and practical acts of charity, brought others back to you. O Source of all love and goodness! You show us how reasonable gratitude is. May I never be lacking in it towards my fellow-men who render me service. They have a right to it and are consoled by it. My first act will be to command them to your love.
Who thanked Jesus? A Samaritan, one of those to whom the Good News was not sent in the first instance. The nine others were the figure of the Jewish nation; thus it seems as if the Israelites were the first of those who are entrusted to our care.
St Paul writes to Romans: "I tell you of the great sorrow, the continual anguish I feel in my heart, and how it has ever been my wish that I myself might be doomed to separation from Christ, if that would benefit my brethren, my own kinsmen by race." (Rom. 9.2,3). The Israelites are the labourers who were hired first, and who were bore the burden and heat of the day (see Matt. 20, 1-16. It is that which makes St. Paul's words so pathetic: "Let me remind you, brethren, of this. Our fathers were hidden, all of them, under the cloud, and found a path, all of them, through the sea....For all that, God was ill pleased with most of them."(I Cor. 10, 1,2,5.)
Yet because of the promise made by Abraham, salvation is of the Jews: "They are Israelites, adopted as God's sons; the visible presence, and the covenant, and the giving of the law, and the Temple worship, and the promises, are their inheritance; the patriarchs belong to them, and theirs is the human stock from which Christ came."(Rom. 9. 4,5).
There were the first whom Christ cleansed from the leprosy of sin; but Israel, wherever its dignity, did not react to God's benefit. Jesus looked down with pleasure on the stranger who lay at his feet, adoring and thanking him. But his disappointed love finds utterance in the words of Isaias: "Outstreched these hands of mine, all the day long, to a nation of rebels, straying this way and that as the mood takes them, openly defying me." (Isaias 65.2.)
Finally, those chosen ones were marked with the blood of their Saviour, as Cain was marked with the blood of Abel; a curse, and yet a sign of protection.
What love should we not have for the nation thus marked by God? We are the new cutting, grafted on the old stem by Christ himself, who loved his own race so dearly, and for whom we are the new Israel his Church the new Sion.
St. Paul, speaking of Israel says: "Brethren, they have all the good will of my heart, all my prayers to God, for their salvation."(Rom. 10.1) Let us, with all our hearts, join our prayers to his!
"Listen, Gentiles, to the Lord's promise....he who scattered Israel will gather Israel in, will guard it faithfully as a shepherd guards his flock....The exiles will return, greeting mount Sion with cries of gladness, thronging in to take possession of the Lord's gifts....Revived their spirits shall be, like a garden when the stream flows full; they shall hunger no more....I will return all their sorrow into joy, comfort and cheer their sad hearts."(Jer. 31. 10-13)
"Grant, Lord, we beseech thee, that all inhabitants of this world, without exception, may become sons of Abraham, and share in the dignity of Israel!" (Collect for Easter Eve).