-13 October 2019 – Gospel Text : Luke 17:11-19 vs.11 On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. vs.12 As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off vs.13 and called to him, “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.” vs.14 When […]
-13 October 2019 –
Gospel Text : Luke 17:11-19
vs.11 On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
vs.12 As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off
vs.13 and called to him, “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.”
vs.14 When he saw them he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Now as they were going away they were cleansed.
vs.15 Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice
vs.16 and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan.
vs.17 This made Jesus say, “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they?”
vs.18 It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God , except this foreigner.”
vs.19 And he said to the man, “Stand up and go your way. Your faith has saved you.”
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose.
Michel DeVerteuil : Michel, a Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, was director of the Centre of Biblical renewal .
Thomas O’Loughlin: Thomas is on the theology faculty of Nottingham University
Sean Goan:Sean studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and works now with Le Chéile.
Donal Neary SJ: Donal is editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina The Year of Luke
General Textual Comments
This Sunday’s reading, though seemingly straightforward, is in fact a combination of two separate stories:
– Jesus heals ten lepers (verses 11 to 14);
– the grateful Samaritan earns Jesus’ praise and an additional healing (verses 15 to 19).
Modern scholarship has shown that the two stories were originally separate and were combined in one text only gradually and after some time. You are in line with the truth of the text therefore if you choose to focus on one story alone, the one which happens to touch you here and now.
A caution, however. Most people coming to church on this Sunday are looking for a comment on the story of the Samaritan, and those who give homilies must take this into consideration when choosing what topic they will share on. Those who are reading the passage for personal meditation do not have that kind of responsibility to the community and are free to focus on the other story – the healing of the lepers.
The lepers – verses 11-14
Leprosy in the gospels is symbolic of the situation from which God willed to rescue his people. It is so in two ways:
– it disfigured people;
– those suffering from it were considered unclean and kept away from the community.
Jesus’ response to lepers invites us to celebrate those who act like him, towards us or others. It also calls us to repentance as individuals and as Church communities – this is the role we should be playing in our communities and in society.
In your meditation remember “lepers” in your family, neighbourhood, classroom, workplace, society – people who are looked down on because they are disfigured in some way, and also those who may not be physically disfigured but are considered “unclean” for some other reason: the mentally ill; those suffering from AIDS; ex-prisoners; gays and lesbians in certain communities; Asians in many countries of the world since the September 11 attacks; immigrants and asylum seekers; people who belong to minority ethnic or racial groups.
The lepers in the gospel story cry out, “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.” The lepers of our experience also cry out, but they often do so in different ways:
a) they behave badly – children are rebellious; students are unruly in the classroom; gangs of youths engage in destructive behaviour; adults argue their point of view aggressively and even violently; they become alcoholics or give in to some form of addiction. The root cause in many cases is an inferiority complex; they feel that others look down on them, that they are “lepers” in their families or neighbourhoods.
b) Often they are silently uncooperative and surly, engaging in what psychologists call “passive aggression”. They refuse to come to church, to attend community meetings or to participate in family discussions.
The text says that Jesus “saw” the lepers. The expression is significant; it says that whereas others simply passed by, he took note of their condition. Nowadays this would include interpreting the behaviour patterns mentioned above.
It is significant too that Jesus met the lepers “as he travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.” It is only if we take the risk of “travelling along the borders” of our communities that we will meet the lepers of our time.
The expression “go and show yourselves to the priests” is also significant, especially today. In the time of Jesus, the priests were civil authorities so that the text simply meant “go with confidence to the leaders of the community.” Today many “lepers” are rejected by their church communities or religious groups; they internalize this rejection and end up having guilt feelings about themselves. Jesus people give them the assurance that they have the right to “show themselves” to the “priests” of their culture; these include all those who dictate religious attitudes – parents, teachers, parish lay leaders, the “holy people” of the community.
“As they were going their way they were cleansed.” Jesus had worked a miraculous cure but the text hints that their setting out with confidence to “show themselves to the priests” had a healing effect – which corresponds to our experience.
The Grateful Samaritan -verses 15 to 19
Homilists often lay stress on Jesus’ being “hurt” by the nine who did not return to thank him. This is undoubtedly an aspect of the story and as such is a reminder of the humanity of Jesus – like us, he was hurt by ingratitude. But we should not make too much of it; that would be to go against Jesus’ character. He was not the kind of person who would make a fuss about being thanked. We know people like that and we don’t admire them. The point is not stressed in the text either – Jesus praised the Samaritan for coming back “to praise God”, not himself. Besides, last Sunday’s gospel taught us not to look for thanks when we do good, since we are “doing no more than our duty.” Jesus could not go against his own teaching.
We are more in line with the movement of the passage, then, to interpret the story as a meditation (starting with our own experience as always) on gratitude as a wonderful gift. The focus is not on Jesus but on the Samaritan. What a wonderful person! He reminds us of people who, having gone abroad or to university and become successful, go back to their home town and “throw themselves at the feet” of their teachers and their community leaders. The passage invites us to celebrate such people, they are a real blessing!
“Finding themselves cleansed” is significant – humble people know that though they have worked hard for their success, luck has played a large part too. Jesus said to the Samaritan, “Your faith has saved you,” which means something like “your humble spirit has made you a secure person.” This also is the meaning of “stand up and go your way.” People who know how to give thanks are well equipped to face the disappointments of life, they can “stand up and go their way” with enthusiasm and energy. On the contrary, those who do not give thanks – “complainers” – are forever disappointed by life and lack the energy to move forward. Jesus’ words “Where are the nine?” express his regret that they were losing out on something very precious. The fact that only one out of ten “came back to give praise to God” reminds us that gratitude is a rare gift. This is particularly true of our modern Western culture; we are so surrounded by creature comforts that we take God’s blessings for granted and do not “come back to give praise to him.”
This holds for natural things like water, sunlight, clouds, mountains and rivers; for family, friends, neighbours and fellow workers; for good health, and for healthcare.
Samaritans in the gospel symbolise those who have experienced rejection in any form. The story tells us then that such people are naturally more inclined to be grateful. We can conclude that the most effective way to come to gratitude is to remember “where we came from”. Moses made this point when he commanded the people to be compassionate to the stranger, reminding them, “You too were strangers in Egypt.”
This approach is of course radically opposed to the condescension of “aid to the poor countries of the world” that is so common today. We as a Church are often guilty of a similar condescension in our relations with other religions.
“The important events in history are the thousands of humble actions that heal and reconcile.” ...Cardinal Arns
Lord, we think today of the many lepers in our society who stand some way off
and call to those passing by, “Master, take pity on us.”
We thank you for the Jesus people who notice them
as they travel along the borders of their societies
and tell them to go and show themselves to the leaders of their communities.
Lord, our Church has made many people feel unclean
– because of their sexual orientation,
– because their marriages broke up;
– because they became pregnant out of wedlock;
– because they gave up the priesthood or religious life;
– because members of their families are in prison or on drugs.
Send them spiritual guides like Jesus who will see deeply into their condition
and tell them that they are not unclean, and can go with confidence
and show themselves to the priests.
Once they know this, they will be cleansed as they go their way.
“Man is straighter when he bends and taller when he bows.” … GK Chesterton
Lord, one of the great sicknesses of our time
Is to have lost the art of giving thanks.
What a pity that so few people come back and give praise to you;
Like Jesus we wonder where are the others.
When we take your blessings for granted we lose energy and enthusiasm.
It is only when we know how to throw ourselves at the feet of those who help us
and give thanks
that we can really stand up with confidence and go our way.
“You must not infringe on the rights of the foreigner or the orphan.
Remember that you were once a slave in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from that.” …Deuteronomy 24:17-18
Lord, help us to come to those in need
without the slightest trace of condescension,
not as chosen people but as Samaritans
who know what it is to be in need ourselves
and have had to throw ourselves at the feet of those who made us clean.
“There are things that can only be seen by eyes that have cried.” …Archbishop Christopher Munzihirwa, Jesuit Rwandan bishop killed in the civil war
Lord, when we remember the pains we have suffered
we can stand up, like the Samaritan leper,
and follow the way of peace and reconciliation.
“We should look at green again and be startled anew, but not blinded, by blue and yellow and red. Fairy tales help us to make this rediscovery.” J. R. Tolkien
Lord, give us the heart of a child,
So that we may know how to come back and give thanks to you
For the simple things in life.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Luke
Introduction to the Celebration
We have gathered here to encounter Jesus our Lord and give praise to God our Father. We meet Jesus in meeting one another, we meet him in the scriptures to which we will listen, and we meet him in sharing in his body and blood at his table, and in union with him we will offer prayer and praise to the Father. These thoughts of meeting Jesus and joining him in the praise of God are very central to our gathering today when we hear the story of the ten lepers who asked Jesus for healing, but of whom only one of the ten came back to thank him. Like those lepers seeking healing, our first thought when we gather is to cry:‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’
This story is found only in Luke and is without any parallel in the writings extant from the first generations of Christians. Geographical locations in Luke are symbolical rather than historical: by placing this event on the border Luke is putting before us one of his key themes, in both the gospel and Acts, that Jesus is God’s salvation for all people. The focus of the incident is not the fact that ten were healed, but that one could see what the fact of being healed meant. When the Samaritan saw that he was healed, he then understood that he had not only encountered healing but salvation. His return to Jesus, in the light of this seeing beyond the healing which is understanding, is then equivalent to conversion and a declaration of faith — hence the final words: ‘Your faith has saved you.’ Note that it was not faith that ‘healed’ him — that was the direct and generous act of God, but salvation demanded the response of faith which is his coming back to Jesus with understanding. This point is, however, obscured by sloppy translating in the JB version in the Lectionary: it reads ‘finding himself cured’, whereas the key verb is that of seeing and so the verse should be rendered as ‘Then one of them, seeing that he was healed (idón hoti iathé), turned back …‘
The story also presents in a nugget Luke’s comprehensive outlook on the work of Jesus: the story begins with bodily healing, it ends with the wholeness (healing for the whole person) that is the gift of the Saviour.
1. That only 10% of the lepers who were healed would show gratitude may seem to be unusual and indicative of a particularly ungracious group, but it is probably no better or no worse than normal. Do we appreciate the goodness of God to us, and thank him? Are we alert to the wonders of the creation, and then respectful of it? Do we see existence as a divine gift and then seek to live in such a way that all creatures are enhanced? Are we anxious to use our individual talents not for personal greed but to build-up a better life for all?
Can we see our riches as offering us the possibility of bringing development to the poor and needy? How often do we stop to count our blessings and then seek ways to share those blessings with those suffering under a variety of oppression? How often do we realise that assembling to offer worship to God is an acknowledgement of our predicament as the human family, rather than an activity that might meet some internal need or desire of me as an individual?
2. Ingratitude is not simply a failure to say ‘thanks’ by analogy with the way a child might forget to drop a note of thanks to a far-away aUIt who has sent a birthday present. Ingratitude is a way of existing, a way of viewing the universe, a way of perceiving ourselves, and a way of acting in society and with society’s blessing. Ingratitude does not see the larger picture of our place in the universe within the material creation, with other human beings, or beyond the universe to its source. Ingratitude is the attitude of those who think that they are self-sufficient, that the world and other people are there for my use or for general exploitation, and who think that my / our aggrandisement is the legitimate end of social and economic policy.
3. Developing awareness of our debt to God’s goodness is, however, a complex matter. It needs us to become alive to the sacramental nature of the universe and other people: we discover God’s love and activity in and through the creation of which we are a part. Gratitude results only from a new way of seeing those in need, human society, the world; and for that reason we as believers in the creating goodness and generosity of God can never separate such activities as (1) care of the poor in our society, (2) development in the Third World, (3) ecological concern about the exploitation of the planet, and (4) liturgy. Only someone who sees the goodness of God can understand why we offer thanks in Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Only someone who knows how much our talents are God’s gifts can see the logic of sharing our resources with the needy. Only someone who sees the creation as being alight with the glory of God and pointing beyond itself to the mystery of its Creator will see that exploitation is inherently wrong.
4. The gospel places emphasis on seeing: the Samaritan experienced a moment of God’s goodness – his healing – and this enabled him to see the larger picture and to become thankful. He discovered not only his healing but the source of wholeness. So this gospel is a call to us to see anew, to renew our imaginations, and to see the mystery of God in the people and world around us.
5. There is a series of ‘A’ words – all of them are variants of ‘seeing’ – that help us to focus on what the gospel calls us to do:
To become attuned to the mystery of God’s goodness hidden within people, situations, and the material world around us. To become aware of those in need of healing.
To become attentive to the cries of the poor, the oppressed, the exploited.
To acknowledge our obligations to others alive today, and to future generations who must live on this God-given earth. To become appreciative of the wonder around us.
To become alert to how simply we can slip into a lifestyle of ingratitude.
To accept the need to praise God if we are to fully understand our human situation.
To become awake to the damage we can do to others and the earth by our carelessness.
To become alive to the dimension of thanksgiving for God’s goodness in the creation in our Sunday liturgy (e.g. the prayers over the gifts) and how that liturgy is linked to care for the poor.
Let the Reader understand
We have already seen that Samaritans can, despite the fact that their neighbours consider them inferior, often be role models for Jesus. In today’s gospel we see Jesus performing an act of healing. As with all of Jesus’ miracles this was not performed simply to show he had the power but to allow the sick back into their community. In this case, a group of lepers who are excluded because of their illness can only stand far off and call to Jesus to heal them. This he readily does but the point made in the story is not that Jesus could do this but that people could still be so ungrateful. Blessed as we are in so many ways, it is easy to take things for granted. The Samaritan in the gospel is there to remind us that learning to say thanks is a simple way to nourish our relationship with God.
A useful image to take from these readings is that of the need for the soil to be right if we want God to take root in our lives. Namaan not only goes home cured but also aware of the need to change the way he looks at the world, in other words how he worships. Bringing home a couple of sacks of the soil of Israelis not to be understood as a superstitious act, but as an indication of his desire to take on the ways of Yahweh who had restored him to health. So too Paul advises Timothy that to be a good leader of a Christian community the essential first step is to ensure that he is firmly rooted in his relationship with Jesus.
A grateful heart
Nine were cured,, and a tenth was healed, The last one came back and liftedhis heart in praise and thanks.
He was a man of another country, not liked by the followers of Jesus, yet his heart was like the heart of Jesus, thankful and light.
The word ‘thanks’ can change an atmosphere. It is one of the most important words between people who are in ordinary and consistent relationships. With those we love, with those with whom we work, live, and with whom life is shared, it is a word that deepens the bond among us. It brings lightness among us.
The Christian heart is a grateful heart. We sometimes find people whose lives are very difficult and disabled on the outside but have a heart of thanks on the inside. They are the people who give thanks for what they have, rather than whine over what they have not!
The thanks of the Samaritan brought him into a sort of unity with Jesus and with the others who looked on him as a foreigner. Thanks can bring enemies together. When we give thanks for the same things, we shatter barriers.
The nine were cured, and probably did well for Jesus in their reports. But the tenth brought the new life of Jesus to others from a grateful heart.
Give thanks this day for the ordinary, for the people who are always there, for the goodness of God. Give thanks, and in giving thanks we will be more like Jesus, the one whose life and words thank God his Father.
Lord Jesus it is right to give you thunks and praise