Gospel Reflections

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 17:11-19

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Jane Dwyer

Published: October 13, 2019

In Brazil, animals surround us, even those from the forest.  Actually, the forest animals are ever more present in our lives as their source of food, the forest, is diminishing.  Today I witnessed a scene that took me straight to today´s Gospel.  A sloth was trying to cross a relatively heavily trafficked highway.  Her journey was a dangerous one, and death by car was a pretty sure future. The people in the area seeing the situation picked up the sloth and carried her to the other side of the highway.  Arriving there, they perched the animal on a tree by the roadside.  Having carefully secured her position, the sloth turned around and offered a grateful hand to the men and women who helped her.  She said “thank you”.  The men and women gratefully recognized her gesture. A relationship continued.  

Today´s Gospel is about gratitude, expressing gratitude. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, passing though Samaria. The Jewish people, influenced or controlled principally by their religion, considered the Samaritans pagans, people without faith, even dangerous.  Jesus, however, spent a fair amount of time among the Samaritans.  His was and is a relational faith, influenced and oriented by concrete situations in which people find themselves, situations of sickness, oppression, hunger, marginalization, racism, repression, threats and so much more.  Jesus understood his mission was to help people free themselves from oppressive structures and situations thus being able to freely and faithfully live their own call to life and mission.  

As Jesus moves along the road, ten men with leprosy called out in loud voices:  “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” People sick with leprosy were excluded from society.  They lived in the hills far from towns and public places.  A simple touch by a person with leprosy made a person impure, incapable of relating with God.  Appearing in public was a risk.  These ten men risked ridicule, stoning and further rejection.  They took the risk, became public and called out for help.  Jesus responds: “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  According to Lv 14, 1-32, it was the priest who verified a cure and provided the necessary document for reintegration into society.  Believing in Jesus and his power to cure them, they began the journey to the priests, another difficult and dangerous appearance for them.  On the journey they were cured, all ten.  

But only one, a Samaritan returned to say thank you.  The question is why only the Samaritan?  Were the others not grateful?  Surely, they were. They were also courageous and believers.  So, what happened?  Let us remember they went to the priests, priests who hated Jesus, feared him and his popularity, feared mostly his questions, his way of life and being among the people.  Most likely the nine men met with severe pressure to not return, perhaps even threats to their lives, cure and reintegration into society if they did return.  The priests held the power in society, an institutionalized power hand in hand with the kings of Israel and Roman emperors.  Jesus´ power was divine and popular, and his way of being, questioned the institution.  The nine men, though probably very grateful, did not return because the organization of Jewish society at that time made it literally impossible.

And the Samaritan?  Why could he return?  He too was courageous and a believer.   But he was not tied to a religious and societal structure that forced him to the priests in order to verify his cure.  He was free to live his cure and return to society.  He was free to return, show and live his gratitude.  He was free from the societal pressures placed on the other nine.  He was free to be grateful and to believe.  The Gospel texts says: “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”  

What faith is this that makes one well.  All ten men were cured.  We understand that the Samaritan was made well.  Is there a difference?  Why?  What is the source of this difference?  Is this reflection important for us today?  Why?

Perhaps the following commentary may help in our reflection:  
“She is so free that one day she will be imprisoned.  Imprisoned?
Why?  For excess of freedom.  But her freedom is innocent!  
Clearly it is, even naive.  So why imprisonment?
Because freedom offends…”


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