This Sunday is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. In yesterday’s post we explored how the 10 lepers were all healed by only the one, the Samaritan, gained insight into Jesus’ as Messiah and encountered the inbreaking kingdom of God.
It is highly possible that the other nine may have attributed their healings to God. However, they didn’t make the connection between God and Jesus of Nazareth. The nine may have been praising God during their whole journey to the temple. Yet the one saw what could only be seen through the eyes of faith: that Jesus is the power of God. This is but a prelude to asking that we see and believe that the dying Jesus is the power of God.
The response of the nine raises a good question: can’t God be praised everywhere? Yes…. but the story seems to be telling us that praising God and thanking Jesus should go together. In our story, the place to praise God is at the feet of Jesus. Faith, beyond being a response of thanksgiving, is seeing the connection between praising God and worshiping and thanking Jesus. The word for “thanks” is eucharisteo – the word Luke uses for his narrative of the institution of the Eucharist. A Catholic perspective from this story is that praising God and thanking Jesus is done, more fully, more completely, in our worship of the Mass, where our worship, praise and thanksgiving is done because we are gifted with seeing Jesus in the Eucharist.
The Samaritan fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. Some might argue that it reads too much into the posture to say that it is an act of worship (although I think that is a fair reading of Luke) – but in any event, is it an act of humility. St. Bonaventure, sometimes referred to as the second founder of the Franciscan friars, wrote in his work The Tree of Life that humility is the guardian and gateway of all the other virtues and that gratitude is its first evidence.
While it is easy to become focused on the miracle, perhaps the more important lesson is the response from one who has been touched with God’s mercy. The lepers call out eleésōn hema which the NAB translates as “have pity on us.” Virtually all other modern translations translate the passage as “have mercy on us,” given that the primary meaning of eleéō is “to show mercy.”
Among the lepers there is the one, the Samaritan, who recognizes that God has acted through Jesus and thus he glorifies God (v.15). Glorifying God is a common response to manifestations of God’s saving work in Luke (2:20; 5:25-26; 7:16; 13:13; 18:4; 23:47) – and so returns to Jesus in gratitude. Gratitude may be the purest measure of one’s character and spiritual condition. The absence of the ability to be grateful reveals something also – perhaps a high degree of self-centeredness or a sense that we deserve more than we have received – thus there is no need to be grateful.
Image credit: CodexAureus Cleansing of the ten lepers, Public Domain, Wikimedia