Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean of his leprosy.
Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant."
Elisha replied, "As the Lord lives whom I serve, I will not take it"; and despite Naaman's urging, he still refused. Naaman said: "If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord."(P) The word of the Lord.
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; his right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm. (R)
The Lord has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice. He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel. (R)
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands: break into song; sing praise. (R)
Beloved: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.
Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.(P) The word of the Lord.
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!" And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves to the priests." As they were going they were cleaned. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
To many of us, today's gospel is probably one of the simplest and most familiar stories from the Bible. The story goes that as Jesus was travelling through Samaria and Galilee, at a village entrance, ten lepers approached Him but kept their distance. During Jesus' time lepers were society's despised outcasts. They were compelled to live outside villages and under all circumstances stay as far away from all healthy people as possible. If and when they came near other people they had to cry out, "Unclean, unclean". Else, anyone they touched also became unclean. That's why these ten lepers called out to Jesus from a distance saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
This was not the first time that Jesus had met people with leprosy. In Luke (5), we read about a leper who fell on his knees with his face to the ground and begged Jesus, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." With all tenderness and love, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched the man, and he was immediately healed. Jesus then instructed the man not to tell anyone what had happened but to go and show himself to the priest and offer sacrifices as Moses had commanded. According to the Law of Moses, the priests had the authority to declare a leper clean so that he could return to his family and fully integrate into the society again.
But here in today's story, when Jesus heard the lepers' shout, rather than drawing near to touch them, he turned to them and simply responded with instructions to go and show themselves to the priests. However, there would be no point in such action unless they were cleansed of their leprosy. Even though at this point they were not cleansed yet, they obeyed Jesus' command anyway. The text says that as they were going to the priests all the ten lepers were healed of their condition. Clearly this was a reward for their obedience to Jesus' command. But, surprisingly, only one of the ten cured lepers returned to give thanks to Jesus, and he was a Samaritan. In the time of Jesus, Samarians were generally considered "a mixed race", and "half-Jews", and were treated as outcasts or foreigners by Jews. Moreover, the Jews hated the Samaritans so much that they believed them all to be possessed by demons.
Here, in the story, the Samaritan's return to see Jesus was more significant than the healing itself because the nine lepers, who were so intent on fulfilling the Law to the letter, went to their priests, whereas the Samaritan, returned to fulfil the spirit of the Law - to pay God back. The Samaritan's first encounter with Jesus was at a distance. But the second meeting was one on one which certainly must have brought him a much deeper healing and a sense of inner peace, for he heard Jesus declaring that his faith had saved him. Yes. The second time, the Samaritan received not just physical healing but also the healing of emotional and spiritual wounds which liberated him from his negative emotions, such as anger and hatred toward those who had alienated and abandoned him, and thus completely transformed his life. He was fully restored in his relationship both with God and others.
There are many lessons that can be learned from this story:
Like leprosy, sin makes us unclean before God and others. In addition sin distances and ruptures our relationship with God and others. Sometimes we can feel this in our own families. Because of sin we can feel alienated from our family members, as well as from God. For instance, when we are offended or betrayed or deceived by our own family members and friends, we can become estranged from them and feel less connected to them. Some people can remain in this uncomfortable estrangement state for a number of days, weeks, months and even years. In these times, the pain is much greater than when someone else breaks our heart.
So, we can see clearly that our sinful condition largely affects our interaction and relationship with others. However, just as only God could heal the dreaded disease of leprosy then, so only God can cleanse us from sin and reconcile us to Himself and to each other, and give us the inner peace we seek. Therefore, let us humbly first of all, acknowledge our desperate sinful condition before God and, really call out to Jesus, as the ten lepers did, that we are unclean and, we are in need of His mercy.
Through our faith and obedience, let us receive healing and wholeness of body and spirit, peace and friendship with others and God.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!