The Grateful Samaritan

Faith Formation

From the Pastor’s Desk

St. Francis and the Leper

The story of the grateful Samaritan offers us another image of who and what matters to Jesus and should, therefore, matter to us. Jesus’ care for the marginalized (here ten lepers and at least one of them doubly marginalized, a Samaritan.) The appropriate response to Jesus, a response of faithful recognition and gratitude. As he enters a village, ten lepers approach calling out to him but keeping their distance because they are unclean. They address him as master, a term used in every other instance in Luke by the disciples. Jesus immediately sends them to show themselves to the priests to confirm their healing, and on route, they are in fact made clean.

Cleansing of lepers is an identifying marker for Jesus’ mission in 7:22: “Go and tell John . . . the lepers are cleansed.” This episode also evokes the story of Naaman the Syrian, the first reading for today. Here, the recipient of healing and grace is a foreigner (although in an interesting twist we find that, in the case of Naaman, the prophet Elisha is from Samaria).

After the healing of the ten lepers, the focus narrows to one of the ten, who alone turns back glorifying God and prostrating himself at Jesus’ feet thanking him. Only after he prostrates himself in thanksgiving do we learn that the one who has turned back in this borderland is a Samaritan. Samaritans were the unlovely outsiders of Jesus’ day, and we can think about who that might be for our congregations and ourselves. These unappealingly different and unwelcome outsiders, along with outsiders generally, are received positively by Jesus in the Gospel of St. Luke.

The heart of the story unfolds in three steps: the healing, the turning back and praising God (literally glorifying God), and the prostration and thanksgiving at Jesus’ feet. The Samaritan’s thanksgiving and prostration at Jesus’ feet; his recognition that God is at work when Jesus notices and heals hurts and brokenness that are not noticed by others; his understanding that to thank Jesus is to glorify God: this is the manifestation of faith that makes well. And this seems to come easiest to the people who have received most from Jesus, the ones who are otherwise ignored, scorned, untouched.

There is no doubt something to be understood here about the people who live on the margins of our communities, who are treated as invisible or unlovely because of how they look or who they are, or where they come from. Jesus clearly notices and loves them and calls us to do the same.

But we might also consider the parts of us that are hidden in the borderlands of ourselves where we may least want to be seen and most need to be touched. Jesus, who is not afraid of borderlands, does not mind meeting us in those places, and it may be that by recognizing him there, we will find in our deepest selves a new outpouring of the grateful love that makes well.

Peace and good, Fr. Oscar.

(Picture is of St. Francis and the Leper)

(En Español)

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