28TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME YEAR C HOMILY 2022
HEALING, FAITH & GRATITUDE
Lk 17.11-19 2Kings 5.14-17 2Tim 2.8-13
At last, on Thursday this week, we celebrated an Anointing (which I prefer, rather than Healing, as I can’t make any promises!) Mass, followed by a most enjoyable, sociable morning tea, provided by members of the parish Senior Friendship Group. Whilst the COVID threat is still out there, gradually, with care, and vaccinations, we are getting back to some sort of normality. This coming Friday, for a delayed celebration of our parish patron, St Therese, with the first whole school Mass since early 2020, so nearly 3 years now! So here’s hoping it’s happy days are here again, as our community regroups, and we look forward to our parish centenary celebrations.
At the same time, we are reminded that all is not clear, when I visited parishioners at Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter McCallum Cancer Centre, where all the checks still need to be made, and RAT tests required for Arcadia and Trevi Court Aged Care visits, in order to protect the vulnerable elderly. I expect these requirements will be ongoing. Then I have friends, who recently contracted COVID, one in Perth, Margaret, on a bus tour, and the other, Jane, a tour guide in Jerusalem, in a serious way, where busloads of fundamentalist American tourists, many unvaccinated, are selfishly passing it on!
This leads me to link today’s Gospel with this issue. At first, I thought it didn’t quite fit, as those suffering from leprosy, or, more likely, an ill-defined disfiguring skin disease of some sort, in Jesus’ time, were totally excluded from normal society and family life, a wise move, in a sense, in order to prevent the transmission of this awful disease.
Then again, I guess the former COVID isolation period could reflect this, in a mild way, although nothing comparable to long-term isolation of so-called lepers back there! And I must confess, I personally didn’t find iso too difficult, even in the earlier long term periods over the past 2 years, but then I didn’t have to worry about a family and balancing home studying and work! It was more a bit like early retirement, although I did record weekday and weekend Masses, while funerals went on as usual, but with only 10 able to attend for much of that time, making it very difficult for families, already bereaved.
Meanwhile, we hear again Luke’s unique account of the 10% return, of only one ex-leper, after 10 are given healing by Jesus, as he breaks the taboos yet again, in reaching out to the unclean afflicted, seen by many as deserving their condition due to God’ punishment for past sins, even genetically transmitted! It was always a simple cop-out of any responsibility for care of such individuals.
In each of today’s readings, we have people in marginal settings, Jesus on the border of Samaria and Judea, Paul in prison, Naaman at the dirty Jordan River. An insight of Claude Mostowik MSC is thus: “In such marginal places, people are freed in unexpected and extravagant ways from the usual conventions to receive God’s faithfulness. So these are not God-forsaken places (as we say), but sacred places where God is present and at work.” And in each case, the response to God is up to the person of faith or not, as we see with leper number 10, and the initial reluctant response of Naaman to wash in the river, but subsequent thanks when cured!
Then there is the significance of the one returning to Jesus, in gratitude, being an even greater outsider, from the Jewish perspective, given that he is a Samaritan, a people mutually hostile to each other. But, as we well know, Jesus delighted in breaking down barriers and challenging taboos, when it came to human concern for every individual who approached him, or to whom he reached out.
When it comes to the Scripture commentaries, the JBC (Jerome Biblical Commentary), things get a bit turgid, with the emphasis being on the teaching word of Jesus even moreso than the miracle, with “Christological, soteriological, eschatological and parenetic import”!! I needed Doctor Google to help me with ‘parenetic’ bit, which it tells me is hortatory or persuasive, so Jesus is giving encouragement to the afflicted and helping them move on in life, with conversion to faith in him and so, a change of attitude to life and behaviour, as part of the whole deal. This is theologically expressed, but in practice it means looking to Jesus as the one who heals, saves and calls to a change of heart, in becoming his disciple, and following him in faith.
Says Raymond Brown: “Indeed, the Samaritan is the sole leper to show gratitude and thus to receive salvation. His reaction anticipates the glad reception of the good news about Jesus by Samaritans in Acts 8.1-25.”
Gratitude is at the heart of the message too, and presumably the other 9 were grateful for their recovery at the hands of Jesus, but, like you and me, were too self-absorbed and relieved to be back with their families and friends, that they just didn’t get around to return to Jesus, just to express appreciation. They would have followed the letter of the law, as instructed also by Jesus, to go to the religious authorities to be officially declared ‘clean’ from their prior ‘unclean’ status, but left it at that. A spirit of gratitude expressed would have helped!
There’s a lesson to learn from that for us directly, that we should express gratitude for things done for us, in general, without taking others for granted, which is very easy to do, particularly with those closest to us. Acknowledgement or appreciation might not be expected, but it certainly helps one’s morale and self-confidence too. Author Mark Twain once said he could live on a compliment for a month!
And Brendan Byrne’s take is also helpful: “Here one who is doubly marginal, – by reason of his illness, by reason of his ethnic background – shows himself more disposed to really know Israel’s God, and so experience salvation. The episode is not just about the healing of an afflicted person. For all else involved, including ourselves, it is a summons to conversion.” And for you and me, that’s ongoing.
john hannon 9th October 2022