Life & Soul

Let’s surrender our divisions to the Lord’s healing

Christ and the Lepers, by Gebhard Fugel (1863-1939)

The 28th Sunday of the Year
2 Kgs 5:14-17; 2 Tim 2 8-13; Lk 17:11-19 (Year C)

“All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout to the Lord all the earth, ring out your joy.”

Psalm 97 invites all the nations of the earth to proclaim a salvation that embraces the whole of creation. The inheritance of sin is alienation and division. The salvation promised to Israel would bring healing to the divided nations.

The Book of Kings, with its narrative of the cleansing of Naaman, a general in the Syrian army, foreshadowed the universal salvation proclaimed to all the nations in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Elisha the prophet preached in the uncertain days of Israel’s early kingdom. Israel’s slender hold on the land was threatened by enemies on all sides. Despite the enmity that divided Israel from Syria, Namaan, a leper and prominent figure in Syria’s royal court, came to Elisha seeking healing. After bathing in the Jordan, he was cleansed of his affliction. The narrative, despite its simplicity, carries a universal message. Only in the surrender of sin and the prejudices that divide are we open to God’s healing forgiveness.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus welcomed outsiders. Thus, as Jesus travelled through the villages that skirted Israel’s northern border, he was greeted by 10 lepers. They greeted Jesus from a distance, an unspoken acknowledgment of the terrible isolation that their condition imposed: “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.”

Jesus instructed them, in accordance with the law, to show themselves to the priests. While on their journey, all 10 lepers received the cleansing that was to be attested by the priests.

Only one returned, and he was a Samaritan. The Samaritans, because of a perceived past infidelity to Israel’s God, were the most hated and rejected of Israel’s neighbours. In receiving and healing one of their number, Jesus reached beyond the divisions of the past.

The Samaritan leper, in turning to Jesus, demonstrated a humility that reached beyond ingrained prejudice. He, alone of the 10, returned to thank Jesus. Thanksgiving is the spontaneous response of the humble to the graciousness of God.

We live in times of deep division on almost every level of society. The pride that seeks to impose can only deepen such divisions. Like the Syrian Namaan, and the Samaritan leper, may we have the humility to acknowledge our need and surrender our divisions to the Lord’s healing.