Two Classes of Men

(Homily for Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Someone has said that you can separate people into two classes: those who divide everything into two and those who do not! Well...although most attempts to categorize people do not work very well, there is something which does distinguish one person from another. We see it in today’s Gospel. I am convinced that people fall into two basic groups or orientations: those who are grateful and those who are not. The groups are not of equal size. In fact, the proportion seems about the same as it was in Jesus’ day. Nine to one. However, in spite of being outnumbered, the grateful carry the day.

A dozen years ago a movie came out which humorously depicted that division of humanity. Titled What About Bob?, it stars Richard Dreyfuss as a psychologist who has everything: a lovely wife and children, a dream home, a successful practice and a best selling book which gives advice for problem solving. But the psychologist himself has a problem: nothing makes him happy. By way of contrast, he has a patient named Bob who possesses very little, but shows a dog-like gratitude for any scrap he receives. Played by Bill Murray, Bob winds up at the psychiatrist’s home as an uninvited dinner guest. He savors each item of food, loudly expressing his satisfaction. Unaccustomed to such gratefulness, the wife is pleased, but her husband grows more and more irritated until he finally explodes, slamming his fist on the table and telling Bob to be quiet.

The characters are extreme, as befits a comedy, but the “successful” ingrate and the grateful “failure” illustrate options each of us faces. Obviously we are not called to scorn success and to curry failure, but we need to recognize where genuine happiness lies: Not in what we achieve, but in how we receive. A sense of accomplisment is important, but much more significant is having an attitude of gratitude.

Jesus cured ten lepers. After their initial amazement, nine of them – naturally enough – wanted to get on with their lives, make up for lost time. Only one returned to express his gratitude. It was not that he had to, but something inside him made him want to come back and throw himself at Jesus’ feet, praising God. Jesus final words are crucial. After contrasting the Samaritan with the other nine, Jesus tells him to stand because, “your faith has saved you.” As we saw last Sunday, the greatest power and the greatest gift a man can receive is faith. Our ability to receive that great gift depends on our attitude of gratitude.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (28th Sunday, Year C):

2013: Focus on Prayer, Part One: Gratitude
2010: The New Copernican Revolution
2004: Two Classes of Men
2001: Show Yourselves to the Priests
1998: Gratitude for Life and Gifts

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (church roof & my dad, Study Guide - Election 2004, stem cell research - science vs. religion?)

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