28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
October 13, 2013
GOSPEL READING: The Cleansing of Ten Lepers
As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us! And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”* As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
REFLECTION: Ten pleaded, One Believed and Thanked Him
We rarely hear people say “thank you” to God or to someone. Why? Perhaps, for the simple reason that no one has taught them to be grateful. Observe how a child behaves when someone gives him something. He would take it for granted and say nothing until someone asks: ”What do you say?” The child would stare blankly until somebody tells him, “say thank you.” Being grateful is a learned habit.
In this Gospel, Jesus was met by ten lepers, pleading from a distance. Leprosy was considered a severe punishment from heaven. Recall the anger of the Lord to Miriam who dared to speak against Moses, and became a leper after being reprimanded by the Lord (Numbers 12: 10-15). Lepers are isolated, ostracized persons, victims of almost every negative relationship with individuals as well as the society as a whole. More than the illness itself are the consequences it entails. King Uzziah violated the law of the temple, became a leper until his death (2 Chronicles 26:19). The relation of the sufferer towards God is an expression characterized by “ being at a distance” from Jesus or from a fellow human being.
And how does Jesus react? He says “Go and show yourselves to the priests”. A command in accord with the Mosaic law being unclean (Numbers 5 : 16). And they obeyed. Their obedience resulted in their healing from distance. Their request for mercy from Jesus was fulfilled, distress removed, deliverance from leprosy granted. Then, one seeing that he was healed turned back. This reminds us of Naaman, the Syrian, he returned to the prophet Elisha after he realized he was cleansed (2 Kings 5:10).
Praise of God is always the reaction of people who received or are witnesses of a marvelous event. Like Naaman, the returnee is not a Jew, he is a Samaritan and therefore in the eyes of the Jews, a pagan. In his return and subsequent behavior this non-Jew acts as the Jews should have acted. The Samaritan represents the pagan nations who turn to the Lord. The contrast between the Samaritan and the nine others is that, he recognizes that in Jesus, he receives much more than the cleansing from the leprosy and therefore occupies a place comparable to that of the centurion of Capernaum (Luke 7:10). Both are contrasted with Israel for they show the only attitude which truly responds to Jesus: Faith.
When Jesus saw the returnee, he asked: “Has no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” By calling the Samaritan a foreigner, represents all aliens who were excluded from the temple worship and therefore could not give glory to God, where according to Jesus, it should be done. But here a foreigner is said to give glory to God without having to break through the barriers of the temple. He has found a new locus of worship, the new temple, JESUS.
Thus, the Samaritan gains salvation. Faith and through it salvation are given to those who open themselves to God’s saving action in Jesus, and understand his powerful deeds as signs of the Kingdom of God which has come near him.
Today, there are different ways of being cured. It takes this kind of insight as that of the Samaritan to acknowledge God’s presence, discovering his saving hand amidst so much sinfulness, sufferings, violence and oppression. Alas, too many eyes and minds are kept from recognizing Him, and Jesus has to reach out working signs and wonders so that their eyes may be opened.
The Gospel reading invites us to become more keenly aware that our very selves and lives are abiding gifts, an abiding divine presence. Do we thank God for the marvels of our body, for our intelligence, our Christian faith, families , friends, our communities, the blue skies and a thousand other things? Are we grateful for what people do to us when we lose our direction, or someone giving us a seat in a train or bus? Our present complex culture challenges us not to let our fears and prejudices reduce people to statistical “ lepers” but to reach out to one another with compassion and respectful generosity.
Listen to what Psalm 115:12-13 says beautifully. “What return can I make to the Lord for all He gives me? I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.”
Let this be our prayer: Saving God, in your compassion, we are cleansed from our debilitating sense of self, in your mercy we are restored to joy. Illumine our hearts and minds that we may not see others as lepers but welcome them as brothers and sisters in you. Make us look at you as the source of all the goodness that we receive in our daily journey in this earthly life.
ABOUT THE SHARER:
SR. MARIA DOMINICA A. NUEVA ESPANA, O.P. is Dominican Nun of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Cainta, Rizal.
Ordinary Time, Cycle C, OP Nuns, Gratitude, Leprosy, Suffering, Faith