Wednesday, November 13, 2013
1) Opening prayer
God of power and mercy,
protect us from all harm.
Give us freedom of spirit
and health in mind and body
to do your work on earth.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 17,11-19
Now it happened that on the way to Jerusalem Jesus was travelling in the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee.
As he entered one of the villages, ten men suffering from a virulent skin-disease came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, 'Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.'
When he saw them he said, 'Go and show yourselves to the priests.' Now as they were going away they were cleansed.
Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself prostrate at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan.
This led Jesus to say, 'Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.' And he said to the man, 'Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.'
• In today’s Gospel, Luke gives an account of the cure of the ten lepers, of whom only one thanked Jesus. And he was a Samaritan! Gratitude is another theme which is very typical of Luke: to live in an attitude of gratitude and to praise God for everything which we receive from Him. This is why Luke says many times that people were admired and praised God for the things that Jesus did (Lk 2, 28.38; 5, 25.26; 7, 16; 13, 13; 17, 15.18; 18, 43; 19, 37; etc). The Gospel of Luke gives us several canticles and hymns which express this experience of gratitude and of thanksgiving (Lk 1, 46-55; 1, 68-79; 2, 29-32).
• Luke 17, 11: Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. Luke recalls that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, passing through Samaria to go to Galilee. From the beginning of his journey (Lk 9, 52) up until now (Lk 17, 11), Jesus walks through Samaria. It is only now that he is leaving Samaria, passing through Galilee in order to reach Jerusalem. That means that the important teachings given in these last chapters from the 9th to the 17th were all given on a territory which was not Jewish. To hear that must have been a great joy for Luke’s communities, which were from Paganism. Jesus the pilgrim continues his journey toward Jerusalem. He continues to eliminate the differences or inequalities which men have created. He continues on the long and painful road of the periphery toward the capital city, from a religion closed up in itself toward an open religion which knows how to accept others as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the same Father. This openness is manifested also in the acceptance given to the ten lepers.
• Luke 17, 12-13: The calling out of the lepers. Ten lepers went close to Jesus; they stopped at a distance and called out: “Jesus, Master! Take pity on us!" The leper was a person who was excluded; was marginalized and despised; and had no right to live with the family. According to the law of purity, lepers had to go around with torn clothes and uncombed hair, calling out: “Impure! Impure!” (Lv 13, 45-46). For the lepers to look for a cure meant the same thing as to seek purity in order to be able to be integrated again into the community. They could not get close to others (Lv 13, 45-46). Anyone who was touched by a leper became unclean and that prevented him from being able to address himself to God. By means of crying out they expressed their faith in Jesus who could cure them and give them back purity. To obtain purity meant to feel again accepted by God and be able to address him to receive the blessings promised to Abraham.
• Luke 17, 14: The response of Jesus and the cure. Jesus answered: "Go and show yourselves to the priest!” (cf. Mk 1, 44). The priest had to verify the cure and bear witness to the purity of the one who had been cured (Lv 14,1-32). The response of Jesus demanded great faith on the part of the lepers. They had to go to the priest as if they had already been cured, when in reality their bodies continued to be covered with leprosy. But they believed in Jesus’ word and went to the priest. And it happened that, along the way, the cure took place. They were purified. This cure recalls the story of the purification of Naaman from Syria (2 K 5, 9-10). The prophet Elisha orders the man to go and wash in the Jordan. Namaan had to believe in the word of the prophet. Jesus orders the ten lepers to present themselves to the priests. They should believe in the word of Jesus.
• Luke 17, 15-16: Reaction of the Samaritan. “One of them, seeing himself cured, turned back praising God at the top of his voice; and threw himself prostrate at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan”. Why did the others not return? Why only the Samaritan? According to the opinion of the Jews of Jerusalem, the Samaritan did not observe the law as he should. Among the Jews there was the tendency to observe the law in order to be able to merit or deserve or acquire justice. Thanks to the observance, they already had accumulated merits and credit before God. Gratitude and gratuity do not form part of the vocabulary of the persons who live their relationship with God in this way. Perhaps this is the reason why they do not thank God for the benefits received. In the parable of yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus had formulated the same question: “Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told?” (Lk 17, 9) And the answer was: “No!” The Samaritan represents the persons who have a clear conscience that we, human beings, have no merits or rights before God. Everything is grace, beginning from the gift of one’s own life!
• Luke 17, 17-19: The final observation of Jesus. Jesus observes: “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God except this foreigner?” For Jesus, to thank the others for the benefit received is a way of rendering praise that is due to God. On this point, the Samaritans gave a lesson to the Jews. Today the poor are those who carry out the role of the Samaritan, and help us to rediscover this dimension of gratuity of life. Everything that we receive should be considered as a gift from God who comes to us through the brother and the sister.
• The welcome given to the Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke. For Luke, the place which Jesus gave to the Samaritans is the same as that which the communities had to reserve for the pagans. Jesus presents a Samaritan as a model of gratitude (Lk 17, 17-19) and of love toward neighbour (Lk 10, 30-33). This must have been quite shocking, because for the Jews, the Samaritans or pagans were the same thing. They could have no access inside the Temple of Jerusalem, nor participate in the worship. They were considered as bearers of impurity, they were impure from birth, from the cradle. For Luke, instead the Good News of Jesus is addressed in the first place to the persons of these groups who were considered unworthy to receive it. The salvation of God which reaches us through Jesus is purely a gift. It does not depend on the merits of any one.
4) Personal questions
• And you, do you generally thank persons? Do you thank out of conviction or simply because of custom? And in prayer: do you give thanks or do you forget?
• To live with gratitude is a sign of the presence of the Kingdom in our midst. How can we transmit to others the importance of living in gratitude and in gratuity?
5) Concluding prayer
Yahweh is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.
In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me. (Ps 23,1-2)