9 October 2016: Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
2 Kgs 5:14-17 Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4 2 Tm 2:8-13 Lk 17:11-19

Discipleship: to heal and to save

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings challenge our idea of salvation.

In the first reading from the second book of Kings, God heals the Syrian Naaman’s leprosy through the prophet Elisha’s word. Elisha refuses Naaman’s gift because Naaman’s healing is from God, not from Elisha. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because Naaman’s cure of leprosy, his thanksgiving, and his faith all have parallels in today’s gospel story of the ten lepers.

The second reading from the second letter to Timothy presents a summary of Paul’s teachings (2 Tim 2: 8), followed by an ancient Christian hymn (2 Tim 2: 9-13). The hymn tells us that through baptism Christians die spiritually with Christ and hope to live with him and reign with him forever.

In Luke’s gospel, Luke tells the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. Luke reiterates that Jesus is continuing his journey to Jerusalem when he encounters the lepers, presumably a mix of Jews (from Galilee) and Samaritans (from Samaria). Here are the key points:

  • Leprosy and Mosaic Law: The Hebrew and Greek words traditionally translated as “leprosy” describe a variety of skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, and seborrhea, but not Hansen’s disease (modern “leprosy.”) Under Mosaic law (Lv 14), anyone who showed evidence of “leprosy” was considered unclean and could not live in the community. This is why the lepers are “outside the village.” Both Jews and Samaritans followed the same Mosaic laws concerning purity and leprosy.
  • Encountering Jesus: Seeing Jesus, the lepers call out “have mercy on us.” Jesus tells them to “show yourselves to the priests” to fulfill Mosaic law. On their way to see the priests, the lepers are healed. The Greek word σώζω (SOHd-zoh) means both “to heal” and “to save.”
  • Thanksgiving and faith: Realizing he is healed/saved, one man returns, glorifying God and thanking Jesus. Luke notes that the returning man was a Samaritan–a non-Jew and a Jewish enemy. Jesus tells the man, “Go, your faith has saved you.”
  • Meanings: First, faith in Jesus saves. This story follows last week’s teachings on faith and discipleship (Lk 17: 1-10)–especially the disciples’ request to “Increase our faith.” Luke uses the leper’s cure to demonstrate faith-in-action. Second, Jesus saves those from all nations. The Greek word ἀλλογενής (ahl-loh-geh-NAYS), here translated as “stranger,” literally means “those outside the family.” Luke uses the Samaritan leper’s healing to show that faith supersedes ethnicity and religion. Faith, and therefore salvation, is open to all people.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider our understanding of saving/healing. God heals/saves Naaman even though he is a Syrian and worships Baal. Jesus heals/saves the ten lepers even though not all of them are Jewish. Although nine do not return to glorify God and thank Jesus, Jesus does not take away their healing. God’s healing/saving is a gift without strings, open to all. Do we offer our healing and salvation to all who ask our mercy, or do we limit our healing and saving only to those we know or only to those who appreciate it?

—Terence Sherlock

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