Yummy might be a word that captures fall. The beauty of the turning leaves is a feast for the eyes and the flavors of the last of the garden harvest. And as the last of the field crops are harvested there are hopes for a bountiful harvest. Against that background, today’s gospel of the ten lepers is often heard on Thanksgiving and our thoughts quickly turn to gratitude.
This parable is unique to the Lucan version of the good news, Jesus’ encounter with the lepers has been traditionally interpreted as a lesson in the gratitude that is properly due to God for blessings received.
But wait, some scripture scholars indicate there is more to the parable. At the outset, this narrative affirms Jesus’ intention to set aside the rules of political correctness that kept foreigners, sinners and the diseased at a distance from most people. Through his interaction with and healing of all 10 lepers, Jesus illustrated God’s universal plan of salvation. It is also interesting to note the welcome Jesus received from foreigners and sinners, whereas the Jewish leaders continue to refuse his outreach and teachings. Some have suggested this pattern of the Jewish rejection versus the gentile acceptance of Jesus as the reason for the shifting of the attention of the early church from Israel to the gentile world. However, a careful reading of the Gospels affirms that reaching out to the gentiles was part of God’s plan from the beginning.
As one writer notes, “The healing of the lepers shows that God’s mercies were to be extended to all, and that they were unconditional in regard to gender, ethnicity or worthiness. Also healing does not translate into salvation, as we see in the exchange between
Jesus and the returning Samaritan. In returning to give thanks to Jesus, the Samaritan indicates that he has come to believe, and that in believing, he appropriates the gift of God offered to him in Jesus. He is not praised solely for his gratitude but for accepting the challenge to believe. Jesus underscores the significance of the Samaritan’s action by declaring, ‘Your faith has saved you.’
This passage challenged the Lucan church of the 80s to be similarly universal in its missionary efforts. While some argued it was proper to restrict themselves to the Jews or to the righteous. Jesus, through his actions declared that all are to be welcomed to healing and to salvation.
Who are the lepers, the sinners of our time, that we as followers of Jesus need to reach out too?
Have a blessed week! Fr. Ron