Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our son, Erik, spent his childhood collecting rocks. He gathered deep grey pebbles from the Cedar River, ordinary rocks from grandpa Fred’s backyard, smooth, skipping rocks from Minnesota lakes, red rocks from Philmont Scout Ranch, and stunning crystals from Montana. At first, it was a few rocks placed carefully on his bedside table, but over time rocks filled a milk pail, a wooden toolbox, and several ice cream buckets. Though I was often irritated by his rock collection, as it gathered dust and occupied much needed space, this Sunday’s readings shed light on Erik’s heavy habit.
Naaman, a foreigner, was healed of leprosy after obeying Elisha’s command to bathe seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman, returning home, requested earth, “two mule-loads” from the holy ground of healing to build an altar to the God of Israel. Whenever he remembered the wondrous deed of his healed, soft, clear flesh, he could then bow low and give thanksgiving to the one true, God. In the Gospel, we read of the ten lepers who were healed, and only one, the Samaritan, returns, prostrates himself before Jesus with profound thanksgiving.
Perhaps Erik was collecting rocks as a way of remembering sacred—beautiful, life-giving, healing—moments. A dear friend collects pressed crimson and golden leaves from her annual autumn retreats as a way of remembering God’s unconditional love. Seaside vacations provide shells as a way to recall God’s soothing presence. A favorite mug, held tightly during prayer, reminds one of God’s daily sustenance. All these items collected recall holy ground and sacred moments. When down or discouraged, one can easily visit the altar of the heart to remember God’s faithfulness and give thanks,
As parents/grandparents, we name grace, God’s living presence, by building “altars” in our homes, collecting and displaying mementos of places where we have experienced God’s goodness, beauty, and healing to regularly remember and give thanks. We name grace by teaching our children to build an “altar” in their hearts, where they can, at any moment (whether sad, scared, happy, lonely), remember their blessings and give thanks to God.
For the most part, Erik’s heavy collection has been dismantled, rock-by-rock. But I pray he continues to remember sacred times at the altar of his heart. Most important, I pray all our children worship at the holy altar of the Lord, which remains, forever and always, the primary place of healing. Each time we pray, “But only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” and receive the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, our souls are made clean as the “flesh of a little child.” The Mass, the holy ground of the universe, where we remember God’s wondrous deeds—Jesus’ death and resurrection—leads to the GREAT thanksgiving for God’s saving power, where every weight is lifted from our lives. Now, that’s good news!
How will you encourage your children to create an “altar” in their hearts?
What will you bring to the “altar” in your home?
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.