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Twenty-eighth Sunday – Ordinary Times Cycle C

Reflecting on Luke 17:11-19

Do you have a certain time in your life that is so indelibly marked in your heart that you return to it almost daily?  For me that time is the fall of 2007, when a staph infection took me to the very limits of my strength.  Those horrible months are all stamped in my memory: the screaming pain, the overwhelming nausea, and the second-by-second waits for the medication to start working.  Those flashbacks return to me now, in this gorgeous fall of 2010, through the distinct sensory messengers of cooling days, leaves changing, and darkness descending earlier.  And this is what that suffering has seared in me:

One returned and thanked him

Utter delight, every single time I drive myself anywhere in the car.  Almost unbearable pleasure at the smell of apples falling from the trees. Laughing out loud as I walk by myself down the block in less than a minute, remembering the agony of trying to take even five steps at a time.  The ecstasy of walking into the grocery story.  The heavenly touch of those who love me.

But I think the most delicious experience of all is remembering, the endless remembering, of being brought back from the depths by the living Body of Christ―the hundreds of friends and family who took care of me through it all.   There can never be enough words of gratitude.  But it’s kind of a “cellular gratitude”.  It’s not anything conscious.  Pain dug a well that is now filled to overflowing with astonished gratitude.  Like the cured Samaritan leper, I will give thanks while I live.

Sharing God’s Word at Home:

Have you reached a place of “cellular gratitude”?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Ordinary Time - Cycle C

19 Comments to “Twenty-eighth Sunday – Ordinary Times Cycle C”

  1. My heart is indelibly marked this time of year, too. It was ten years ago, as I watched my second son fighting for his life. I will never forget the ravages of chemotherapy and three fatal doses of radiation on his body to prepare him for the bone marrow transplant that didn’t, ultimately, work. Hate-filled words his bride screamed at him when he was at his lowest still come to my mind at the most unexpected times. The lack of support from my family members during his last months, when I needed them most still pains me at times. My mother screaming at me in front of my friends after the Rosary the night before his funeral, “I’m going to give you ONE LAST CHANCE to allow us to support you,” after the total silence from my family for the previous three months is indelibly imprinted on my brain.

    The worst kind of grief is that of a parent following the death of a child. I had already experienced this when my first son died, so I knew some of what to expect. I did not count on the help from the Holy Trinity, but it was there with all the graces I needed. I began to realize how many women want children but do not get that opportunity. I am grateful for the experience of mothering two beautiful, wonderful sons.

    I am most grateful for God’s grace keeping me from retaliating for hurts imposed on my baby (he was always my baby even at 28) — I am grateful that God’s grace covered my anger and allowed me to say the things that would be comforting to my son instead of the things that in my humanness I wanted to scream at those doing the hurting.

    My cellular gratitude is that Curt is now with his brother J.R. in heaven waiting for their Mom. I do not cling to this life, as much as I enjoy it most of the time, because I know that if I do what it takes to win the race, I will be with those sons for all eternity. How could one not be grateful for that?

  2. I have had many health issues over the years. And as I meet the peaks and valleys in the medical journey I have had to remember that doctors are people too. I have been blessed with really good one and I have had some that were sour grapes. Bitter and mean. But all along I always tell myself that my life is in God’s hands. If I live one more day or one hundred more years, it all in His good wisdom and grace that I am at all. I don’t like suffering it is the only part of illness that scares me. Death is not the thing I fear. But getting there is what I never want to journey through. Perhaps it’s because I spent many many years watching members of my family suffer long and hard illnesses. I have seen it divide us little by little. My sister’s baby died from SIDS at 21/2 months and then a week later our mom died after 2 months in ICU. Both were hard to deal with only one was a shock. But I have learned that what doesn3 kill us make us stronger if we have the courage to trust God and His wisdom, and His mercy.

  3. Dear Kathy, I attended your lecture on Saturday,
    October 9 at St. Mary’s in Littleton, CO
    My love and prayers are with you as you
    continue this mission of Jesus’ Real Presence.
    How wonderful to hear your talk, it was a
    blessing for me.
    God bless you and Ben

  4. I know extactly what you’re are talking about a staph infection. I had the same thing you had in the same hip, I had 4 surgeries, all together 8 surgeries. I didn’t know what to think, when I was going through all these surgeries, one think that I see now is how God was trying to get me closer to Him. you see that was the only time that I would go into deep prayer, with every surgerie. and when that was over, I would go back to my old ways. today I see his plan and am very grateful for his patients.He has given me a chance to live in his presence. my spirtual life is very good. Thanks to God.not to forget His Mother.

  5. bonita a richards

    Am I registered on the Church of the Risen Christ denver web site?

  6. Yeah, it’s me again. I have thought about my comment, and it wasn’t my best efford to express myself. Here is an example thats more personal. In 1988 I had an infection in my leg, I get celluitist pretty often because I have psoriasis. From that infection I developed blood clots that went to my lungs.One night I woke up and couldn’t breathe. While I was in the hospital my fever was so high that I hallucinated. When I was being let go. The doctor told me that I almost died. You know, I knew it, but hearing it was painful. There have been so many of these near death times what with car accidents and all, I am amazed at the mercy of God. Sometime I don’t know who I am that God reaches out and draws me back time and time again. This is how I have learned of the great love the Father has for His children. I once thought of suicide and He reminded me of all the times I could have died and didn’t. I learned what a gift this life is. Every life is call forth by Him, none are mistakes!

  7. Barbara Williamson

    My Dearest Kathy,
    How I remember those days of your illness–but I knew how strong a woman you are and I knew you would make it thru it all. LOOK HOW FAR YOU HAVE COME—YOUR STRENGTH IS SHOWING AND YOUR POSITIVE ATTITUDE IS TRULY A MARVEL!!!! I AM TRULY BLESSED TO HAVE YOU AND BEN AS FRIENDS

  8. Brevis and Becky are saints! Thanks for your stories. It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well but when life clobbers you with a 2 X 4, repeatedly – – and you still keep singing the praises of the Lord, this is no longer a human act. It’s a God event.

    Thank you for these lessons. Pray that I truly learn from them.


  9. I guess I’ve been like the other 9 lepers in the past year; failing to give thanks for the good news. The past three years have been filled with so many things I have trouble remembering which one came when. In August 2007, they did a lung biopsy to diagnose an interstitial lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and the first of October told me my life expectancy would be 2-3 years. Then, October 27, 2007 I sutained a terrible fracture of my right humerus, leaving me unable to live my life with much activity (and unable to assist my dear friend Kathy in her time of need). A failed union requiring surgery to pin my arm the next summer; rapidly progressing cataracts due to high dose prednisone requiring bilateral eye surgery; the deaths of my 32 year old grandson, and two nephews age 35, two years apart; bilateral knee surgery; two car accidents, both totalling the car and one fracturing my sternum; one wonders which suffering is worse – physical or emotional. They both take their toll, and when they come in waves together it’s hard to tell them apart. Then, in January, when the tests on my lungs indicated an improvement, I really could not give thanks. I was tired and had no energy to have to go on working and dealing with all the therapy, etc. What was the purpose of this new information, and what did God want from me? This was the first time in my life that I had so much trouble dealing with the suffering in life, and it was difficult to feel God’s presence. Prayers continued, but it just didn’t seem like I could hear the answers. I’m in a much better place now, working for full surrender to God’s will, waiting for His plan to be revealed, but the questions continue: the nephew who died last April was the brother of my 34 year old niece who is dying of melanoma; together their ages don’t add up to mine, and I would gladly trade places with either one of them. Renay’s mother is losing her last child, and I’m still here. “Take up my cross and follow me” is a directive we can’t begin to comprehend, and I echo Mother Teresa: “I know God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. I only wish he didn’t trust me so much”. I guess He has trusted several of us a lot recently.

  10. Cellular gratitude. I love that phrase, and it immediately struck a chord in me. Yes, there is a moment and place that is a part of who I am – beyond analysis, beyond self-reflection, beyond conscious thought, but always there in its entirety when I reach for it. It blesses and sustains me, and makes me forever grateful for the gifts that have sprung from that experience.

    It’s a specific place: the second pew on the left side of the sanctuary in my childhood parish. My memory is not of a single point in time, but is the endlessly repeated habit of an entire childhood — daily mass through most of my eight years of parochial school; the parade of Sundays structured by the beautiful rhythm of the liturgical year; holidays, baptisms, weddings, and even funerals. I remember every sensory experience: the color of the light from those simple stained glass windows, the sound of the fans and the swamp coolers in summer, the touch of hands during the Lord’s Prayer, the dancing flames from the votive candles, and always, always the faces and voices of my parish family. 

    That pew was like a safe, sacred island around which the torrent of my life flowed. My childhood was not without its sadnesses and struggles, but in that place I could hold in my heart all the happiness and blessings as a counterweight to those fears and wounds, and all the bad stuff dissolved in the glow of that vibrant, loving community of faith. My hopes and happiness were anchored in the countless hours I spent in that pew. This memory lives in me, even now when I live fifteen hundred miles and twenty years away, even when I rarely enter a church these days. I can close my eyes and be there once again: a child of God in the embrace of an extraordinary assembly of believers.       

  11. how beautiful, Michael. What a grace-filled spirituality. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  12. Kathy, your remarks about gratitude encourage me. They are beautiful, and they make me feel a deep happiness to read how you have recovered from that crisis. I just bless you for coming out of that dark place to the kind of joy you are experiencing now.

    It’s telling too, that a clear comparison exists between how you experience your memories, and how I had just written in my journal last week about my own. I was back in Ohio, and the smells and sights of fall, the sounds of the trees and leaves falling, brought me back to another year also. But the cellular response of that memory was one of regret and embarrassment…1981, and mistakes I was in the middle of making that affected other people. I realized that those memories caused a bodily response…shrinking in the middle, crying tears from inside organs, and more. Then the bodily sensation of depression, like a bad taste in the mouth, only it is everywhere else too.Then I read how your memories of 2007 caused you to feel the unbearable joy you are talking about. Just at the same time I had been writing about how the unpleasant memories were causing me to feel unpleasant things.

    But I realized something else…. there were other memories; the good things that were going on during that time, that made me smile, to feel that gratitude, and appreciation: an older nurse I was working with who was a loving friend, a book that my brother gave me that was so moving to me I wrote the author and received a handwritten gracious response, and other good things.

    I wondered about this: maybe some people are wired differently, like me, to allow the unpleasant memories to dominate, pushing down the good ones…while some are wired to attend to the good ones, like you Kathy.

    Maybe we could call my response a habitual lack of gratitude. However at least this time, I did realize I had been pushing down the sweet memories and I savored them for awhile.

    Sorry to go on and on. Just to say that I don’t think I would have been the leper who returned to Jesus, but one who couldn’t believe the cure and anxiously looked for signs of returning disease.

    Could prayer be the difference? Staying close to Jesus? Which causes a cellular presence of Our Lord? Which leads to joyful gratitude and faith? This is just more encouragement for me; to keep trying to do the same; pray and stay as close as I can to the Lord.

  13. Thank You Cris, but trust me Im no saint. Im one of those people who says “if they only knew the real me”. I have experienced some unusual things in my life. But who hasnt? This is how my mom raised me, “also remember that no matter how tough life gets, someone else has been there, done that or worse”. By the grace of God there go I! Thanks to everyone who shared and opened my eyes and heart wide and more profoundly to His mercy this week. Becky

  14. I’m not a saint, either, but I hope to be one day.

  15. What sacred stories filled with heartbreak, love and beautiful memories have filled this column!
    You are all such a blessing!
    Thank you!

  16. My husband’s grandfather died this summer. He and my husband had a wonderful relationship and that was passed down from the two of them to our five children. His wishes were for no Mass, no funeral, no memorial. But I knew that my husband and our children needed a chance to remember him and to say “good bye for now”. They needed some closure as this was a very difficult loss. So we loaded everyone in the car and drove to California to his grave site.

    It was just the 7 of us at his grave. We stood and prayed. Then we started remembering. Everyone from my husband, our 13 year old son, all the way down to our two 6 year olds shared memories of their great grandfather. And as they shared and I listened and remembered…my heart was just filled to overflowing with gratitude. Gratitude that my husband and children had known this man and been loved so deeply by him…that he had managed to make each one of them feel like the most special person in the world to him. There wasn’t room for sorrow in my heart in those moments at his grave side…just complete joy and gratitude for God’s blessing of this man to my family.

    I was taken by surprise by feeling joy in a moment like that, but every time I think of that hot August day outside of Los Angeles, my heart swells with love and I can’t help but be thankful for the gift of love each of my family members have experienced through their grandfather.


  17. I stood in church on Sunday next to my 92yr.old mother as this gospel was read. As it began speaking about the lepers I immediately felt part of the story. They were healed by Jesus who then told them to go see the priest. Why go to the priest? It was his responsibility to give the okay for them to return to their community, to let others know they are okay. Now ask yourself what if the priest had said NO? What if he wouldn’t even see them? This is where I find myself in this gospel. In accepting my homosexuality I felt the love of Jesus as I longed for his healing. I too went to the Bishop of Denver asking for acceptance but you know the end of that story. I held back the tears as I stood next to my mother. She is from the time when the Church was not an institution to be questioned. I stood with my head down, still too ashamed to tell her who I am.

  18. Hi everybody,

    I am so touched, so deeply moved by the honest and deep sharings on the site this week. Thank you so very much for trusting this space, and its readers. I hope that it will continue to be a safe place for reflection and faith-building.

    I think the new essay for this weekend will be coming up soon, so let me just thank you all for a wonderful week.


  19. Your reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, in which you shared with us your thoughts on “cellular gratitude,” hasinspired me to share… While I admit I have not been through the ordeals you have, life has brought me to the point where your words resonate loud and clear, beginning when – each day about 3:30 AM – my eyelids pop open and as soon as I realize I’m awake, I thank God for allowing me to try one more day to live my fullest for Him. With the exception of my sinful humanness, every single day is filled with gratitude for just being alive.

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