Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

In ancient Israel, there was nothing more pitiable than a leper.  Since the disease was contagious lepers were prohibited from entering any town.  When they were on the move and walking about they had to continuously make a loud noise and shout, “Unclean!” so that people would know that a leper was approaching and they could clear the area.  They couldn’t be within 50 yards of a healthy person.

Their life was one of total isolation: no friendship, no sense of belonging, no affection.  And in today’s Gospel we meet 10 of them.  They stood off at a distance and shouted to Jesus saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”  There’s something about this man, they just knew he could help them.   And Jesus heard them, and saw them, and he really looked at them, into them.  Our Lord may have been the first one in years to see them not as monsters or freaks but as men and women made in his image.  We want to be looked at in the very same way.  We want that look from our Lord; we want that same divine gaze.  Spiritual writers will say that that look from Jesus is the look of Divine Innocence.  In Luke’s gospel the centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus states, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.”  Jesus embodies harmlessness and this harmlessness is sometimes foreign to us because we sometimes want to harm others, whether it’s in anger, frustration or in comments we make.  We want to harm.  The brokenness within us wants to harm.  But when we look into the face of Divine Innocence, when we look into the face of Jesus and it has to be into the face and not just at the face.  When we behold and look into the face of Divine Innocence, this is to know that we are accepted and that our sins are forgiven.  There’s no scowl or a furrowing of the brow.  None of the things we do when confronted by someone else’s sin.  This innocence of divine love is experienced by us as mercy.  Divine love meets with the evil we have done, and remains love.  Divine love meets with the evil we have done, and remains love.

Now sometimes it’s hard for us to look into the face of someone we’ve wronged.  Just think back to when you were a kid and couldn’t look your dad in the eye after doing something he told you time and time again not to do.  But you did it anyway and you were caught.  You couldn’t look him in the eye; you could only stare at your shoes.  You didn’t want to see the scowl and the disappointment in his face. Sometimes it’s the same with Jesus we find it difficult to go to him.  We find it difficult to look into his face.  Instead of going to Jesus when we struggle we sometimes go to an artificial consolation, maybe its possessions, or gadgets we buy, going after some pleasure, some diversion, or any of the multitude of distractions our world can throw at us.  But our Lord’s face is the one face we should never fear looking into.  He’ll never look away and there will never be a scowl.  In our struggles let us look to the loving face of Christ.

I want to share with you a prayer by Fr. Emory Petho.  This is the priest we went to for confession; he was my Dad’s pastor back at his home parish of St. Mary’s in Burnside.  He helped me to see the face of Jesus in the confessional.  Fr. Petho died 28 years ago and he’s buried just a few feet away from my parents.  He wrote this prayer about the face of Jesus.  There are many people who have a devotion to the holy face of Jesus.   This devotion is based on the miraculous images of our Lord’s face found in the Shroud of Turin and Holy Veil of Manopolo.

Be my Joy

Holy Face of Jesus

Be my Strength

Holy Face of Jesus

Be my Health

Holy Face of Jesus

Be my Courage

Holy Face of Jesus

Be my Wisdom

Holy Face of Jesus, image of the Father

Provide for me

Holy face of Jesus, mirror of thy Priestly Heart

Be my zeal

Holy Face of Jesus, gift of the Spirit

Show me Thy love

Holy Face of Jesus, saddened by sorrow

Grant my requests through Thy merits.


By Fr. Emory Petho


In the midst of our own struggles and temptations and sins do we always seek the face of Jesus, seeking him in scripture, in prayer, the sacraments, the tabernacle, the monstrance? We all have a bit of leprosy, something that separates.  We all have something that embarrasses or humiliates, something that makes us want to stare at our shoes.  Maybe no one else knows about it.   In the midst of our own struggles, temptations, and sins do we always seek the face of Divine Innocence?

Let us be great Saints,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley