October 14, 2007


Stand up and go; your faith has saved you. – Luke 17: 19

Ultimately, this is a story about seizing, or failing to seize, second chances. When people emerge unscathed from a car crash, or survive the onset of cancer, they may take a deep breath & quickly return to business as usual, OR they may make an inner accounting of their lives. They have been given a second chance. The question is will they take it?

Many vow to take it. Their second lease on life is not going to repeat the mistakes of their first lease on life. They make social & spiritual resolutions, revising priorities & focusing on what is really important. In some cases, cynics would be correct in predicting that these resolutions will be short-lived. The cured will return to the mindless lives they have previously led. The “more time” they have been granted is just that – more time. It is not a new life, but the same old life prolonged. The twin realizations of the second chance – that time is limited & the time is now – will probably fade.

In today’s Gospel, only one out of ten seizes the second chance, & he, like Naaman in the first reading, is an outsider who might not be expected to do so. Herein, we have the recapitulation of a sad truth: God is relentlessly pursuing humans who are just as relentlessly running away. It is our loss.

Praising & thanking God is possible when we see into the source of life. Our normal sight takes on an added dimension. We become aware of the ultimate mystery that supports & permeates all there is. We also become aware that we do not possess that mystery, & so we do not have power over it. It is nothing less than the gift of love. When we realize this spiritual truth in a deep & sustained way, we are acknowledging our complete dependency on God & trust in the divine mercy.

Praise & gratitude are the necessary first responses, but more is required. So Jesus tells him to “get up & go.” It is time to live – not to return to the old ways but to find a new way that his faith has begun to forge in him. If he walks this new way, he will go beyond cure into healing. He will take a one-time experience of mercy & turn it into a continual happening.

Although these situations are exceptional opportunities, we do not have to wait for close calls with death or miraculous cures. There is nothing stopping us from acting immediately on the twin realizations that the time is limited & that the time is now. Before we finish this Mass, we can praise God for the life we do not own, thank Him for the revelation of divine mercy that calls us out of isolation, & become more serious about allowing His way of life to have influence on our own.

The second chance slumbers in every minute. It gives new meaning to the old slogan, “Get a life!” The question is, will we seize it? AMEN!