Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Cure of ten lepers
11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samar′ia and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed.15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Cited in the Catechism: In promulgating the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Blessed John Paul II explained that the Catechism “is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium.” He went on to “declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion” (Fidei Depositum). Passages from this Gospel reading are cited in the Catechism paragraphs 586 and 2463.
17:11–19. The setting of this episode explains how a Samaritan could be in the company of Jews. There was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans (cf. Jn 4:9), but shared pain, in the case of these lepers, overcame racial antipathy.
The Law of Moses laid down, to prevent the spread of the disease, that lepers should live away from other people and should let it be known that they were suffering from this disease (cf. Lev 13:45–46). This explains why they did not come right up to Jesus and his group, but instead begged his help by shouting from a distance. Before curing them our Lord orders them to go to the priests to have their cure certified (cf. Lev 14:2ff), and to perform the rites laid down. The lepers’ obedience is a sign of their faith in Jesus’ words. And, in fact, soon after setting out they are cleansed.
However, only one of them, the Samaritan, who returns praising God and showing his gratitude for the miracle, is given a much greater gift than the cure of leprosy. Jesus says as much: “Your faith has made you well” (v. 19) and praises the man’s gratefulness. The Gospel records this event to teach us the value of gratefulness: “Get used to lifting your heart to God, in acts of thanksgiving many times a day. Because he gives you this and that. Because you have been despised. Because you haven’t what you need or because you have.
“Because he made his Mother so beautiful, his Mother who is also your Mother. Because he created the sun and the moon and this animal and that plant. Because he made that man eloquent and you he left tongue-tied.…
17:11–19 According to the Law of Moses (see Lev 13:45–46), to avoid contagion, people suffering from leprosy were to live away from settlements and let others know that they had the disease; that is why the ten lepers keep their distance from Jesus and shout out their appeal to him (vv. 12–13). The location of this episode explains how a Samaritan came to be in a group with Jews. There was hostility between these peoples (see Jn 4:9), but the disease they shared led them to overlook the antagonism between the two peoples.
These men put their faith in Jesus’ instruction to show themselves to the priests (v. 14), but only one of them comes back to thank him—a Samaritan. He, as Jesus put it, “gave thanks to God” (v. 18), with the result that, of the ten who were cured, only one, through faith, was made well, that is, saved, as the Latin makes clear (“fides tua te salvum fecit”: v. 19). The scene bears out what Jesus, in the synagogue of Nazareth, had said would happen (see 4:27). It is also an invitation to us to show gratitude to God: “What better prayer can we think in our mind, or utter with our tongue, or express with our pen than ‘Thanks be to God’? Nothing can be said more briefly than this, or heard more joyfully, or used more faithfully” (St Augustine, Epistolae, 41, 1).
Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.
“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” St Jerome