In the Gospel for yesterday (Sunday’s) Mass the Lord Jesus healed ten lepers. Only one of them returned to thank him. And Jesus asked the following question:
Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? (Luke 17:17)
We have discussed before (HERE) that, when Jesus asks a question, you’re supposed to answer it yourself. Do not wait for some one else to answer it. Don’t just wait and see how someone in the Biblical story answered it. YOU answer it, for yourself.
So Jesus just asked us a question: Ten were cleansed were they not? Where are the other nine? OK, so where are they? “Who?”, you might ask. Well, think in terms of evangelization. Do you not know at least nine other people who need to return to God, to the Church and to the sacraments? The Lord is asking you (not the person next to you), “Where are the other nine?”
Now the question has a rhetorical quality to it. The Lord is not merely curious as to the physcial whereabouts of unchurched loved ones and friends. It would seem He also wants to know why they are not “here,” close to him in the sacraments. We saw in yesterday’s blog post (HERE) that the gospel is really in the form of a Mass and the leper kneeling before him to give thanks has a Eucharistic meaning. So, in this sense, the Lord wants to know why the missing “nine” are not kneeling before God in the great thanksgiving we call the Eucharist (a Greek word which means to give thanks) to render thanks and receive further blessings.
So where are the other nine?
- Where is your spouse who fell away from the faith years ago?
- Where is your son or daughter who stopped going to church in college?
- Where is your brother?
- Where is your co-worker who “used to be Catholic”?
- And to the priest and parish leaders:
- Where is that parishioner who used to be so dedicated and hasn’t been seen in months?
- Where is the choir member who once sang all those solos?
- Where is the parish secretary who got ill and had to retire but you haven’t contacted since?
- Ten were made whole, were they not? Where are the other nine?
Why me? It is a true fact that we cannot be personally and primarily responsible for every one’s whereabouts and falling away from Mass. But neither can we be wholly detached from this matter. One day God asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” And Cain replied with a question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Now, of course, Cain had other issues going on. (!) But aside from those, his question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is demonstrably shallow. The fact is, we are our brother’s “keeper” in the sense that their whereabouts and well-being should be important to us. It should grieve us if they have drifted from God and the sacraments. Perhaps they did this because they were hurt, or are sick. Or perhaps they have grown lukewarm or have drifted into serious sin. Yes, “Where is your brother?”
And so, the question, “Where are the other nine?” is a question we must answer. And if that means that we must go and seek the other nine and find the answer, then we ought to get about doing it. We don’t need to start with lectures. Simple heart-felt questions can often be the best beginning:
- How have you been?
- I haven’t seen you in Church recently. Are you OK?
- Did someone hurt you?
- Has your health been poor?
- What keeps you from coming?
- Can I help?
- How do you experience God in your life?
- Do you know we miss you?
- Do you know we need you?
- Do you know the Lord wants to feed you?
- Come with me back to Mass this Sunday.
The Archbishop in his recent letter on Evangelization (Disciples of the Lord) says,
This is our mandate: to witness to others so that they reawaken to and rediscover the vital and inexhaustible friendship of Jesus Christ. Sisters and brothers, our eagerness and zeal for the task can be both the invitation and support for those who take their first steps back to the community of faith, as the ever deepening life within the seed is drawn to the light. At the individual level this action may be through a deepening of our own personal faith as well as outreach to others: a direct conversation about Catholicism, extending an invitation to Mass, or providing simple witnesses such as blessing ourselves before a meal in a restaurant, offering to pray for someone in need, keeping a devotional item on our desk at work or wearing a crucifix for others to see. (Disciples of the Lord, P. 13)
Our archdiocesan efforts to share the good news and invite others into the joy of new life in Christ are not simply a new program — one among many. I hope all of us will see the New Evangelization as a lens through which we see everything that we are doing but now in the light of our understanding of how important it is for each of us to tell the story, share the excitement and be that leaven where the faith has gone flat and that salt where the faith has lost its zest….We cannot simply invite from a distance. Instead, we search actively and carefully for our sisters and brothers who are away from the practice of their faith. (P. 15)
The Lord was surely glad to see that Leper come back and he is surely glad to see us at Mass on Sunday. Praise God! But he does have a heartfelt question for you and me, and for the Church. It is an evangelical question, and and a question that touches on the most fundamental mission we have. It is a question that we cannot utlimately ignore if we want to call ourselves the Lord’s disciples. It is a question you must answer: “Where are the other nine?” Where?