|28th Sunday in Ordinary time, 9 Oct 2016|
From the Dean’s Desk
Last week’s Gospel reminded us of the importance of the gift of faith [Luke 17:5-10], when Jesus in answer to the disciples’ request to increase their faith, simply stated that if their faith were the size of a mustard seed, then they could achieve many and great things. Today’s liturgy combines the gift of faith with that of gratitude and thankfulness towards the source and origin of our faith: God.
Today’s Gospel tells us of the encounter between Jesus and ten lepers. The encounter occurs while Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem, travelling through foreign territory. While all three Synoptic Gospels have a story of the encounter and cure by Jesus of a single leper (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16), this story is found only in Luke. The point of the encounter that we have in today’s Gospel is not so much the healing of the ten lepers, but rather the fact that only one – a Samaritan – came back to give thanks to Jesus for the cure [Luke 17:15-16]. Jesus’ remark is filled with both sadness and astonishment: ‘were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? [v. 17]. The Samaritan is reminded of the gift of faith that has been given to him, and that this gift has been not only his re-entry into society but also his means of salvation.
The gift of faith that is the focus of our last two Sunday liturgies becomes the gift that truly allows a Christian community to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. At the beginning of Chapter 17, Luke reminds us of two elements in the living out of our Christian communal calling that require faith. He says that true members of a Christian community should never give scandal to others, especially those who are ‘innocent’ with the community [Luke 17:1-2]. He then goes on to say that forgiveness should be at the basis of our relationship with those within the community who wrong us and ask for our forgiveness, no matter how many times they wrong us and ask for that forgiveness [Luke 17: 3-4]. It is this faith, the size of a mustard seed [Luke 17:5-6] that allows us to always give thanks to God for the good that he bestows on us.
As we hear this story of the encounter between Jesus and the ten lepers, I can ask myself: with whom do I associate in this story – with the nine lepers who failed to give thanks or with the Samaritan who returned and gave thanks to God for his cure? When we look at our lives we find that our sense of thankfulness to God can waver between these two responses. Sometimes we can be grateful for what God has done for us, especially in hearing and answering our prayer. At other times we can neglect God for what God does for us and continually demand from God – a little like taking for granted a friend who is always there for us. As we enter into this Gospel story, perhaps we can stop and think of the many good gifts that God has given us, especially those gifts which we have taken for granted, and in faith give thanks to God for his continual love and care of us.
Fr Robert Bossini