2 Kings 5.14 – 17; Ps 98; 2 Tim 2.8 to 13; Lk 17.11 – 19
1 Kings 17.6 – 16; Sal 4; Heb 13.1 – 8; Mt 10.40 – 42
Sixth Sunday after the martyrdom of St. John the Precursor
1) The healing of the leprosy of the heart.
Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem where he will have to face death to allow him and the whole of humanity to go into the heavenly promised “land”. In this “exodus” towards the City of Peace, where He will do the Passover (the passage of return to the Father, the passage from death to life), Jesus leaves nothing unvisited by his presence, nothing untouched by his holy hands and by his merciful gaze that heals body and soul.
In this journey to Jerusalem, south of the Holy Land, Jesus follows a geographically absurd path because he goes first north to Samaria and Galilee. He follows the map of the heart and goes to the town center through the suburbs, not geographically but existentially speaking. In fact, who was more peripheral of the lepers who are the living dead, especially at that time when they had to stay far away from contact with other people? They were condemned to the margins of life because infected and bearers of a contagious disease that made unclean.
The ten lepers represent the whole of humanity, poisoned by sin, condemned to death, and unable to make the journey of life. Jesus commands everyone (including us) to walk and to have the miracle of healing “ certified” by the priests, as prescribed by the Mosaic law.
However, it is not enough to obey and walk because a person must be aware of the gift received. Unfortunately, only one of the ten, a Samaritan (a person who, besides being kept away because of the disease, was despised by the others as heretic), goes back to Christ to thank him for the healing given to all. Thanks to this Eucharistic gesture (Eucharist means thanksgiving) he received the healing of the heart.
In this encounter between Jesus and the lepers, two are the key words: “piety” and “thank you”.
The invocation “Lord have mercy” or “Lord, have mercy on us sinners” introduces every Eucharistic celebration and it is the prayer that each of us addresses to the Lord at the beginning of the Mass.
The important thing is that the invocation “Lord have mercy” turns into a “thank you”. In this way we recognize fully that our misery needs mercy.
To the request to be accepted and loved in spite of our bad doing that is expressed with the invocation, “Please, Lord, save me” (Ps 115: 4), Christ responds with his infinite mercy, in which we are healed at a level higher than the one we ask. With today’s miracle, the Lord teaches us that there are two levels of healing: one, more superficial, concerns the body, the other and deeper touches the inside of each person, what the Bible calls “heart”, and from there spreads to the whole of existence. The health of the body is not against that of the heart, but the complete and radical healing is salvation that makes sure that the heart will not remain away from Christ.
Let’s keep in mind that salvation is the relationship with him, the source of life, and not the cleansing of leprosy because we would still get sick and die. Salvation is not simply being healed. Salvation is something else. It is not good health because this sooner or later will go away. Salvation is something else: it is communion with him, the return to him and glorification of God with a loud voice. Redemption is to be with Him, our Paradise. It is to be happy with the gift received and say loudly: “I love the Lord for he has heard my voice and my prayers. To me he turned his ear in the day when I called him “(Ps 115: 1-2). It is in the Eucharist that we live the trust and the encounter with him who loved us and saved us. Then, let’s go with gratitude to the source of our confidence, his love by which we can live.
2) We are saved thanks to our thank you.
The return (synonymous of conversion) of the cured leper was dictated by the gratitude to the Messiah who had healed. In this gesture we can also see the recognition of Christ as the High Priest to whom no longer the Mosaic Law, but the new law makes us go to have certified our recovered health. With “thank you” the invocation of compassion for the terrible disease that corrupts the body becomes experience of love and communion.
He is not only a healed leper, but a saved man.
This Samaritan sensed that going back to Jesus to glorify God has made accessible to him what before was forbidden: the Temple, the worship and the life of the Holy People.
This redeemed man, prompted by gratitude, approaches with full confidence the throne of Grace to receive mercy, find grace and be helped at the appropriate time (see Heb. 4: 15-16).
This man destroyed, despised, alone, and isolated experiences salvation. He is not only given back to a dignified life on earth, he receives also the Life that no longer passes.
The important thing is that we go to Christ begging mercy and saying “thank you”. We too then will have the experience of Jesus the healer and, above all, the Redeemer who saves the body and the heart.
It may seem paradoxical, but we can properly say that the healed leper (that is, each of us who has repented and is grateful) becomes the living proclamation of the Gospel of life.
For us the same thing could be done. If we implore pity and say grace, we become true Disciples of Christ and his faithful announcers.
This is the teaching of the last part of today’s gospel: Jesus praises the faith of the Samaritan leper and designates him as a herald of good tidings. These are entrusted to those who -thanks to faith – receive purification from the leprosy of sin and salvation of the soul, the redemption of the heart. Let’s pray with Romanus the Melodist: “In the same way in which you cleansed the leper by his infirmities, oh Almighty, heal the evil of our souls, you who are merciful, through the intercession of the Mother of God, physician of our souls, Friend of men and savior immune from sin “(Hymns, 23, Preface).
The Samaritan leper is each of us, sufferer from the leprosy of sin, cleansed by the forgiveness of the Messiah, who works in us a deep inner healing. For this, we are made true disciples of Jesus, the Savior of the world.
The magnitude of the Samaritan was to put not only his heath but all his life in the hands of the Lord.
At this point we can ask ourselves what prompted the cured man to surrender himself to Christ with a heart glad and full of gratitude. We can even ask a similar question, valid for less dramatic situations: “What drives the consecrated virgins in the world to put their lives at the feet of Christ, the bridegroom, so that He can do with them what pleases him?” It can only be the same profound certainty that animated the heart of Mary in front of the announcement of the Angel at Nazareth and up to the Cross in Jerusalem, that gave strength to St Joseph faced with the task that God entrusted him, and that supported the Apostles before the martyrdom: the compassion that God has bent over us, the Lord’s Mercy that has come here on earth and took on a human face. Christ is our only true Good and He wants nothing more than our good. For this He was born and died. For this He is risen and is here, present in the Eucharist. For this we can surrender ourselves to Him completely. For this we can go to Him, kneeling supplicant, and put in His Will all our lives to be told again: “I love you.”
May the surrendering of the consecrated virgins be our everyday simple and transferable example to tie trust in Jesus, who, by his holy and pure love, communicates purity and healing. In our everyday life, we experience that healing begins when we know that we can count on someone who wants our good, is close to us, and is willing to bear our evil, be it illness or sin.
The radical compassion lived by Christ, asks each of us to wonder about our ability to stay close to those who feel unclean and sick. How can we forget that, just the day he decided to embrace a leper, Francis of Assisi understood the whole of Christianity and began his journey to become “very similar to Jesus” to the point of being like him “physically” receiving the stigmata?
Jesus is the holiness that burns all our sins and the life that heals our diseases, but his service to men has a high price. He can no longer go openly into the villages but is forced to stay in desert places and to live the situation that was before of the leper. Jesus cures and heals others at the price of assuming upon himself their evil. The Latin text of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Servant of the Lord says among other things: “We considered him like a leper” (Is 53,4b). Jesus, the Servant, the Messiah, the Savior, has become for us as a leper to heal our leprosy in the body and in the spirit! On the cross he will have wounds like a leper, but we can fix our gaze on him in the sure hope of being healed and with the certitude of the compassion of the one who “took upon himself our sufferings and our evils” (Is 53,4a)
on Lc 17,11-19
AMBROSE; After speaking the foregoing parable, our Lord censures the ungrateful;
TITUS BOST. saying, And it came to pass, showing that the Samaritans were indeed well disposed towards the mercies above mentioned, but the Jews not so. For there was enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans, and He to allay this, passed into the midst of both nations, that he might cement both into one new man (Ep 2,14).
CYRIL; The Savior next manifests His glory by drawing over Israel to the faith. As it follows, And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, men who were banished from the towns and cities, and counted unclean, according to the rites of the Mosaic law.
TITUS BOST. They associated together from the sympathy they felt as partakers of the same calamity, and were waiting till Jesus passed, anxiously looking out to see Him approach. As it is said, Which stood afar off, for the Jewish law esteems leprosy unclean, whereas the law of the Gospel calls unclean not the outward, but the inward leprosy.
THEOPHYL. They therefore stand afar off as if ashamed of the uncleanness which was impaled to them, thinking that Christ would loathe them as others did. Thus they stood afar off, but were made nigh to Him by their prayers. For the Lord is nigh to all them that call upon him in truth (Ps 145,18). Therefore it follows, And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us.
TITUS BOST. They pronounce the name of Jesus, and gain to themselves the reality. For Jesus is by interpretation Savior. They say, Have mercy upon us, because they were sensible of His power, and sought neither for gold and silver, but that their bodies might put on again a healthful appearance.
THEOPHYL. They do not merely supplicate or entreat Him as if He were a man, but they call Him Master or Lord, as if almost they looked upon Him as God. But He bids them show themselves to the priests, as it follows, And when he saw them, he said, Go, show yourselves to the priests. For they were examined whether they were cleansed from their leprosy or not.
CYRIL; The law also ordered, that those who were cleansed from leprosy should offer sacrifice for the sake of their purification.
THEOPHYL. Therefore in bidding them go to the priests he meant nothing more than that they were just about to be healed; and so it follows, And it came to pass that as they went they were healed.
CYRIL; Whereby the Jewish priests who were jealous of His glory might know that it was by Christ granting them health that they were suddenly and miraculously healed.
THEOPHYL. But out of the ten, the nine Israelites were ungrateful, whereas the Samaritan stranger returned and lifted up his voice in thanksgiving, as it follows, And one of them turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God.
TITUS BOST. When he found that he was cleansed, he had boldness to draw near, as it follows, And fell down on his face at his feet giving him thanks. Thus by his prostration and prayers shelving at once both his faith and his gratitude. It follows, And he was a Samaritan.
THEOPHYL. We may gather from this that a man is not one whit hindered from pleasing God because he comes from a cursed race, only let him bear in his heart an honest purpose. Further, let not him that is born of saints boast himself, for the nine who were Israelites were ungrateful; and hence it follows, And Jesus answering him said, Were there not ten cleansed?
TITUS BOST. Wherein it is shown, that strangers were more ready to receive the faith, but Israel was slow to believe; and so it follows, And he said to him, Arise, go your way, your faith has made you whole.
AUG. The lepers may be taken mystically for those who, having no knowledge of the true faith, profess various erroneous doctrines. For they do not conceal their ignorance, but brazen it forth as the highest wisdom, making a vain show of it with boasting words. But since leprosy is a blemish in color, when true things appear clumsily mixed up with false in a single discourse or narration, as in the color of a single body, they represent a leprosy streaking and disfiguring as it were with true and false dyes the color of the human form. Now these lepers must be so put away from the Church, that being as far removed as possible, they may with loud shouts call upon Christ. But by their calling Him Teacher (cf. Mt 8,2 Mc 1 Lc 5,12), I think it is plainly implied that leprosy is truly the false doctrine which the good teacher may wash away. Now we find that of those upon whom our Lord bestowed bodily mercies, not one did He send to the priests, save the lepers, for the Jewish priesthood was a figure of that priesthood which is in the Church. All vices our Lord corrects and heals by His own power working inwardly in the conscience, but the teaching of infusion by means of the Sacrament, or of catechizing by word of mouth, was assigned to the Church. And as they went, they were cleansed; just as the Gentiles to whom Peter came, having not yet received the sacrament of Baptism, whereby we come spiritual to the priests, are declared cleansed by the infusion of the Holy Spirit. Whoever then follows true and sound doctrine in the fellowship of the Church, proclaiming himself to be free from the confusion of lies, as it were a leprosy, yet still ungrateful to his Cleanser does not prostrate himself with pious humility of thanksgiving, is like to those of whom the Apostle says, that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, nor were thankful. Such then will remain in the ninth number as imperfect. For the nine need one, that by a certain form of unity they may be cemented together, in order to become ten. But he who gave thanks was approved of as a type of the one only Church. And since these were Jews, they are declared to have lost through pride the kingdom of heaven, wherein most of all unity is preserved. But the man who was a Samaritan, which is by interpretation “guardian,” giving back to Him who gave it that which he had received, according to the Psalm, My strength will I preserve for you (Ps 58), has kept the unity of the kingdom with humble devotion.
BEDE; He fell upon his face, because he blushes with shame when he remembers the evils he had committed. And he is commended to rise and walk, because he who, knowing his own weakness, lies lowly on the ground, is led to advance by the consolation of the divine word to mighty deeds. But if faith made him whole, who hurried himself back to give thanks, therefore does unbelief destroy those who have neglected to give glory to God for mercies received. Wherefore that we ought to increase our faith by humility, as it is declared in the former parable, so in this is it exemplified in the actions themselves.