Gospel Reflection for Sunday the 9th of October 2022

Gospel Reflection for  Sunday the 9th of October 2022

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Luke 17:11-19

According to the psychologist Martin Seligman, gratitude, along with forgiveness, is an essential virtue in accepting our past positively and avoiding deeply held resentment towards previous hurtful experiences: “Gratitude amplifies the savoring and appreciation of the good events gone by” and allows for a “rewriting” of “history by forgiveness” which “loosens the power of the bad events”, which typically give rise to resentment (Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness, p. 70). In this Sunday’s Gospel a Samaritan, who has been cured of leprosy by Jesus, is presented as a model of gratitude. Gratitude is an important virtue in the Christian life, a precursor to humility and an antidote to pride and self-love. While esteeming gratitude in the spiritual life, St Ignatius of Loyola (1542) identified ingratitude “as the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins”.

An in-depth look at this Gospel (Luke 17:11-19) reveals the movements within the spiritual life from crying out to Jesus seeking healing to praise and adoration of God. The First Reading from 2 Kings 5: 14-17 acts as a prefigurement to the Gospel. Naaman, the commander of the army of the King of Aram, a Syrian, an enemy of Israel; comes to the prophet Elisha to be cured of leprosy. Surely, Naaman could have bathed in one of the great rivers in the Kingdom of Damascus but he humbles himself, follows the instructions of God’s prophet, and bathes seven times in the River Jordan.

Similarly, Luke in the Gospel presents a Samaritan, an outsider on the margins, an enemy of Israel, to demonstrate the inclusive call of God to all people regardless of ethnicity, ritual cleanliness, gender, or economic status, to encounter his healing love, mercy and salvation. In Luke’s Gospel we meet the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee, who loved much (Luke 7:50), the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:48), poor Lazarus who cried out with hunger (Luke 16:20), and the blind man near Jericho (Luke 18:42). In this Gospel, Jesus meets ten lepers suffering with the disease, who live in social isolation, deemed ritual impure and unable to live or worship in the community, in keeping with the rules of Leviticus 13:45-46.

As they encounter Jesus, the lepers, while keeping their distance, do not let themselves be paralyzed because they were shunned by society. They “called out” (Lk 17:13). In our own sense of sin, we can feel isolated and alone. However, a distance can be shortened, loneliness can be overcome, “not by closing in on ourselves and our own problems”, or by “thinking about how others judge us, but rather by crying out to the Lord” (c.f. Pope Francis, 13 Oct, 2016). We know our own need of healing – to be healed of lack of confidence in ourselves, in life, in the future; we need to be healed of our fears and the vices that enslave us, of our addictions and attachments. It is interesting that the ten lepers were not healed as they stand before Jesus; it is only afterwards, as they were walking: “As they went, they were made clean” (Lk. 17:14). They were healed by going up to Jerusalem, that is, while walking uphill. In keeping with Leviticus, those cured of skin diseases were obliged to declare themselves clean before a priest in the temple. Pope Francis, reflecting on this Gospel points out that “on the journey of life, purification takes place along the way, a way that is often uphill since it leads to the heights” (13 Oct 2016). Luke in his Gospel presents the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:33) as a model of unconditional love and here presents a Samaritan as a model of faith and gratitude. Pope Francis remarks that this “man was not content with being healed by his faith, but brought that healing to completion by returning to express his gratitude for the gift received. He threw himself down on the ground at the feet of Jesus in an act of praise and adoration. He recognized in Jesus the true Priest, who raised him up and saved him, who can now set him on his way and accept him as one of his disciples. It takes humility to be able to give thanks” (9 October 2016).

While in life we seek Jesus, desiring his healing love and mercy to touch our wounded hearts, gratitude is an essential virtue in accepting his healing with praise and thanksgiving and live our lives in the light of Jesus’s resurrection. The spiritual writer Henri Nouwen describes gratitude, as a discipline, as a conscious choice to be grateful instead of finding fault and step by step continuous gratitude in life reveals that all is grace: “Gratitude becomes a quality of our hearts that allows us to live joyfully and peacefully even though our struggles continue”. There are many concrete reasons to offer gratitude to God – when someone is kind to us, when an event turns out well, when a problem is solved, a relationship restored, or a wound healed. Gratitude encourages and inspires, contradicts self- centeredness, and cuts through discouragement. The supreme prayer of thanksgiving, which we celebrate and offer is the Mass. The Eucharist (Eucharistia) means “thanksgiving”. Pope Benedict XVI teaches us that by offering us the Eucharist, as a memorial of his death and resurrection, Christ
invites us into his act of thanksgiving and blessing, and receive the newness of life. The Gospel concludes with Jesus commanding the Samaritan: “Rise (anastas) and go; your faith has saved you”. The Greek verb “anastas” here meaning “to rise” has a strong connotation of the Resurrection and captures the salvific healing by Jesus. This man, with the nine others, lived in the darkness of isolation, now begins a new life. This Gospel calls us to cry out to Jesus to heal us, to share in the grace of new life and to continually unite ourselves with him in praise and thanksgiving.

“A grateful heart is one that remains young”. Pope Francis


– Fr. Barry White