Year C: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Luke 17: 11-19
Today’s Gospel takes up a couple of St Luke’s favourite themes - Jesus’ attitude to people who were excluded from society and those considered to be foreigners.
In the time of Jesus - and for centuries after - leprosy was a dreaded disease. It caused horrible disfigurement and there was no known remedy. Still worse was the suspicion that leprosy was a divine punishment. The only solution at the time was to forbid sufferers from coming into contact with other human beings - as Luke describes the scene - the lepers stand some way off. Jesus tells them to go and show themselves to the priests - for it is they who can decide whether the person is really cured and so able to rejoin the community.
As they do as Jesus told them, they all find that they have been cured. For most of them, the only aim is to go to the priests and back to their families - and so they continue on their way.
But one cannot simply go to the priests to be allowed back - he is a Samaritan and would only meet with contempt from any Jewish priest. Unable to take the route laid before the others, he returns to the One who healed him and praises God for the great thing that has been done for him.
Jesus contrasts his behaviour with that of the others. Those who should have recognised the hand of God in their healing were continuing on their way. They would go to the Temple to give thanks to God in the prescribed ways - making sacrifices and so on. With no Temple-building to go to - the Samaritan, in fact, finds his way to the Living Temple that is Jesus. He finds the presence of God in the person of Jesus - and gives thanks.
We are reminded again that St Luke is writing for a Gentile audience. They would have been the outsiders. They had no Temple to go to - but had recognised Jesus as the Son of God - the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Their praise and thanksgiving to God was directed through the person of Jesus - not simply by fulfilment of certain rites.
They encountered the healing love of God in the person of Jesus Christ - and here they - and we - are being reminded not to take that great love for granted. It is a love that is great enough to embrace the whole world - and is not bound by human boundaries. It is a love that is freely given - and our response can often only be a wondering gratitude.
What does it mean for me?
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