My Dear People,
Today we have two readings that deal with healing of leprosy. The first reading is regarding Naaman the Syrian who goes back to Elisha and wants to give gifts to him in thanksgiving of being cured of his leprosy. Elisha does not accept them. Naaman then wants two loads of dirt from Israel so that he can take it to his place in Syria and worship on Israeli soil. Naaman, now that he is cured, believes that Israel has the true God and he only wants to worship on Israeli soil.
In the Gospel we see the situation of the ten lepers who, while they were showing themselves to the priests, were cured. Only one out of the ten went back to give thanks. He, too, was a foreigner not an Israelite. In the Gospel, Jesus enters a village where he encounters ten lepers from a distance, since they were required to remain isolated according to the law (Lev. 13:46; Num5:2). Humbly addressing Jesus as Master, the lepers ask for pity—that is, “mercy”. The blind man at Jericho will later make the same plea. These cries, which echo prayers directed to God in Psalms (Ps. 86:3; 123:3), are now directed to Jesus, through whom God’s “tender Mercy” is being manifested (Luke 1:78). With the lepers and the blind, Jesus brings healing, thus indicating the advent of the Messiah. (7:22).
Jesus immediately commands the lepers to go and show themselves to the priests, those who can examine them and officially declare that they are clean (Lev 14:1-20). Jesus had similarly instructed the individual leper after cleansing him. Here he does so before anything takes place. It is by obeying his command—that is, believing that they will be healed—that they are cleansed while going. The miracle thus recalls Elisha’s healing of Naaman the Syrian (4:27), who likewise was cleansed from a distance after obeying the command of the “prophet of Samaria” to ‘go” (2 Kings5:3, 9-14).
However, the miracle is only half of the story. One leper of the group returned. Like others whom Jesus healed, he is glorifying God (Luke 5:25; 13:13; 18:43). Similarly, Naaman had returned and confessed the true God (2Kings 5:15). Jesus is thus a prophet like Elisha. Moreover, the man also thanked Jesus: glorifying God and thanking Jesus are now linked together. In doing so, he literally fell “on his face” –like the earlier leper (Luke 5:12)—before Jesus. This action, given its Old Testament background (2 Sam 9:6’ 14”4, 33; 19:19), suggests that Jesus is also to be recognized as a king like David. Indeed, as Jesus continues his approach to Jerusalem, there will be frequent references to his kingship (e.g. son of David,” Luke 18:38-39), and when he arrives, he will be acclaimed as “king” (19:38).
A surprising detail is now revealed: the man was a Samaritan (see 9:52-53). The implication is that the others were Jewish.
Jesus expresses disappointment that the other nine have not returned to give thanks (literally, “glory”) to God. He refers to the healed Samaritan as a foreigner, the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament. This word was part of the Greek inscription that was placed on the wall in the temple courts beyond which non-Jews could not go, on pain of death (see Num 1:51). By his healing work of restoration, Jesus is overcoming the barriers between Jews and non-Jews, thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy.
The foreigner joined to the Lord should not say “’The Lord will surely exclude me from his people”;…And foreigners who join themselves to the Lord…Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer…For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:3, 6-7).
Shortly, Jesus will quote this passage when he cleanses the temple (Luke 19:46). Jesus dismisses the Samaritan with the same words he spoke to other marginalized people whom he healed or forgave: Your faith has saved you (7:50; 8:48; 18:42). The Greek verb for ‘save” (sozo) also means “heal,” pointing on one level to the miracle. However, Jesus’ words suggest that the Samaritan received more than the physical healing that all ten lepers received. Luke’s readers would thus be reminded that faith in Jesus leads to salvation (Rom 10:9: Eph 2:8). Earlier, a Samaritan in a parable became a model of compassionate, merciful love (Luke 10:27, 33, 37). Now a real-life Samaritan has become a model of grateful, saving faith. He anticipates the Samaritan people’s later response of faith (Acts8:12).
I want to thank all the ones who brought their pets to be blessed. Indeed, it was a special event. In addition, thanks to all those who went to the activity of holding placards and praying for Life by Highway 27 on Sunday. I also want to thank all the ones who went to the Cathedral for the ordination to the priesthood of Carlos Encina.
Yours in Christ.
Fr. Vincent Clemente