GOSPEL: LUKE 17:11-19
– Fr Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau
We can run the risk of reducing the message of today’s Gospel to a lesson of good manners, to remember to say thank you to those who help us.
Ten lepers of the Gospel represent all the people, the entire humanity far away from God. All of us—Luke wants to tell us—are lepers and we need to encounter Jesus. No one is pure; we all carry on our skins signs of death that only the word of Christ can cure.
Whoever is not aware of one’s own condition of being a sinner ends up considering oneself righteous and with the duty to condemn others to the margins. God has not created two worlds: one for the good ones and the other for the wicked ones but—be it in the present or in the future—a unique world wherein he calls all his children to live together, all sinners saved by his love.
After stretching his hand and curing them, Jesus could no longer enter publicly in a city but stayed outside in deserted places (Mk 1:45). Jesus knew that touching the leper he made a gesture that would make him unclean and for that, he had to distance himself from the society of the pure.
At the end, Jesus remains surprised: a Samaritan—a heretic, a non-believer—had a theological insight, which the nine Jews, sons of his people, educated in the faith and knowledgeable of the Scriptures, did not have. Along the way, all ten were aware that Jesus was a healer. The great news was immediately announced to the spiritual guides of Israel. God has visited his people. He has sent a prophet on par with Elisha. Until here, all the ten arrived.
A new light brightened only in the mind and heart of the Samaritan: he understood that Jesus was more than a healer. In his act of salvation, the leper captured the message of God. He, the heretic who did not believe in the prophets, had surprisingly intuited that God has sent him, whom the prophets announced: He opens the eyes of the blind, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead are raised to life and the lepers are made clean (Lk 7:22).
He is the first to truly grasp that God is not far from the lepers. He does not escape nor reject them. He knew what he must say to those who institutionalized, in the name of God, the marginalization of the lepers: get over with religion that excludes, judges, condemns the impure persons!
The message of joy is this: the impure, the heretics, the marginalized are not only closer to God, but they get to him and to Christ first and in a more authentic way than the others.