Twenty-Eighth Sunday In Ordinary Time, October 14, 2007

2 Kings 5: 14 - 17

2 Timothy 2: 8 - 13

Luke 17: 11 - 19

An Enigma

Lukes Gospel for this Sunday puts us face to face with an enigma: Do the nine men who are healed but dont come back to thank Jesus have faith? When, before healing them, Jesus sends the ten to show themselves to the priest, they could have cried out: But heal us first! Indeed, they were going to the priest, not to ask for healing, but to confirm a healing which would have already taken place and to ask him to celebrate the required rite of purification.

By obeying Jesus and trusting an apparently crazy command, all ten lepers show their entire trust. Why, then, does Jesus seem to reproach those who did not come back to thank Him, with a lack of faith?

In Israel, leprosy belonged to the religious realm : the Book of Leviticus (13-14) describes the impurity it imposes and prescribes the rules for purification. Several times, it is presented as a punishment for sin (Nb 12, 9-10 ; 2R 5, 27 ; 2 Ch 26, 16-21). And only the power of God cures leprosy. The purification of lepers, moreover, is a Messianic sign. Salvation is offered to all, but the Samaritan alone recognizes the power of God in Jesus and renders Him praise. Acting in this way, he is the one who fulfills the mission of Israel to render glory to God. Jesus tells him: Get up, go, your faith has saved you. The leper thus becomes the living witness of the salvation offered to all. The warning that Jesus makes is addressed to the reader: Have not ten been purified? And the nine others, where are they? The signs of the Kingdom are difficult to recognize and we are sometimes not so ready to give glory.

This episode certainly reminds us of the prophet Elisha's healing of Naaman the Syrian. Besides the leprosy, there are certain other parallels. Elisha sends the message that Naaman should wash in the Jordan and the Syrian is cured from a distance, just as the ten lepers are sent to the priests and find themselves cured while they are on their way. Naaman is a foreigner and Jesus calls the Samaritan a foreigner also. Naaman returns to Elisha to thank and praise the true God, the God of Israel. The Samaritan does the same at the feet of Jesus. The Book of Kings underscores the fact that a pagan comes to confess and adore the one, true, God and Luke underscores the faith of the Samaritan who shows that thanking Jesus and adoring God are the same thing. Both Scripture passages put emphasis on the fact that it is a foreigner, whom Israel does not consider a true believer, that gives the example of a true and perfect faith !

—Sr. Sophie Ramond, R.A.