Year C: Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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.”
- Name a time in your life when you were overwhelmed with gratitude. What happened? Was your gratitude returned to God?
- Where in your life have you experienced God’s “healing” with a second chance? Did it bring about “new life = saved ” or did you go back to business as usual, healed but not saved? Tell the story.
- Do you completely trust that since you have died with Christ in baptism, you also live with him? When do you think your “living with him” begins? Explain.
A narrative particular to Luke’s Gospel, the story of the 10 lepers has traditionally been regarded as a moralizing example affirming gratitude as the appropriate attitude toward God’s blessings. While this lesson is important, it is not the only one Luke intended. In the simple statement “He was a Samaritan” (v. 16) and in the three rhetorical questions that followed (“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God? — vv. 17-18), the evangelist has broadened the application of his narrative.
Besides the necessity of gratitude, Luke affirmed: (1) the universality of God’s saving concerns: All were to share in the messianic blessings of healing and wholeness, even Samaritans; (2) the contrast between the Jewish rejection of Jesus and his acceptance by those not regarded as belonging to God’s chosen ones; (3) the difference between being healed and being saved.
Scholars would have us be mindful that there are two miracles being celebrated in this Gospel: The obvious one is Jesus’ healing of the 10 lepers; less obvious, but much more significant, is the coming to faith of the healed Samaritan leper. The other nine lepers had experienced the same healing as they were on their way to be declared ritually clean by the priests and free to rejoin the community. However, only the Samaritan returned to Jesus. His action was explained and affirmed by Jesus: “Your faith has saved you” (v. 19).
In returning to Jesus, the Samaritan was acknowledging what God had done for him in Jesus and, for his faith, he experienced salvation beyond the physical cure. Healing issues forth in salvation when God’s gracious initiative is recognized and when one’s response to that initiative is faith. Because the Samaritan had faith, he was healed and saved.
Often the champion of foreigners, the Lucan Jesus held out the Samaritan leper as an example and a learning experience for his disciples. Rather than follow their centuries-old traditions and shun the Samaritan as unclean, the disciples could learn from the Samaritan’s humility in coming to Jesus. They could learn from his faith, which was willing to recognize God’s hand at work in a most unlikely person.
Many regard this narrative as a foreshadowing of some people’s eventual rejection of Jesus and the Gospel, and others’ enthusiastic reception of Jesus and the good news. For Luke’s contemporaries in the 80s C.E., this incident also helped to formulate a missiology. Jesus’ disciples were to spread the seed of the Gospel among all people and places, without discrimination or preconceptions about the results. If these seeds were rejected, the disciples were to move on. When the seeds were welcomed, even tentatively, they were to do all they could to help the seeds to grow and develop. They were to preach, teach and baptize, to visit and revisit the hearers so that the seed might flourish.
This initial missiology has not changed. We, too, are sent forth to plant, to water, to prune and to feed, remembering all the while that God gives the growth.
Living in Gratitude
Deacon Ross Beaudoin
Recently when a small group of seniors had lunch together to celebrate their 80th year a picture was posted on Facebook with the caption: “Celebrating 80 years of life and blessings. Grateful.”
A complete list of the things for which the group felt grateful could likely fill a page. However, for people celebrating their 80th year, one good reason to be thankful was just the fact that they were in relatively good health and able to go out to lunch together under their own power.
None of the group had any illusions about “life.” They had already outlived many of their contemporaries. They were also well aware that they didn’t cause their own lives. They held deep gratitude for their parents and for the Author of Life. They also knew that over the years, they had benefited from personal relationships and the resources of others. They had received so many gifts from people, from society and from God. Gratefully, these seniors celebrated “life and blessings.”
In the scriptures today, we have stories of people who received extraordinary blessings: healings from crippling and life-threatening disease that also excluded them from society. In the story from 2 Kings, Naaman was cured of leprosy. Naaman was overcome with gratitude and wanted to give a gift in thanksgiving for his cure. The prophet Elisha refused to accept his gift. So, Naaman asked for a substantial load of dirt from the territory of Israel. He wanted to build an altar of sacrifice on “Israeli soil” in his own country in gratitude to the God of Israel.
In the Gospel, we hear a situation similar to the story of Naaman. Ten persons suffering from leprosy encountered Jesus as he was entering a village. Excluded from society because of their illness, they called out to Jesus for help. Jesus responded to them. He sent them to the priests so that their healing could be verified. One of the 10 returned and thanked Jesus for curing him. Were not the others grateful? We do not know. But they did not return to say so.
Jesus comments about this. “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Gratitude is not just a social grace. Gratitude is a habit of the heart. None of us is our own source of existence or the source of all that we need to survive and flourish. All of life is a gift to us. Truly grateful persons acknowledge that they are recipients of countless gifts from others, from nature and from God. True gratitude springs from that essential insight.
The very word “gratitude” comes from the same root as the word “grace” — gift (Latin: gratia). Think: “grateful”; “graceful.” In Greek, grateful is eucharistain — the word we Christians use for our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The Eucharist is the ultimate act of gratitude, thanksgiving for life and salvation in Christ.
That’s why we are here today. We come to acknowledge and celebrate that we are grateful for everything from God, through Jesus Christ.
We began with a story about the gratitude of a group of 80-year-olds. Whether we are in our 80s, 40s, teens or younger, we all are called to have gratitude. Everything in our life is a gift, starting with life itself.
Gratitude enriches us: It opens us to experience the bounty of God and others. The more we become grateful people, the more we will find to be grateful for.