Listen, O kings, and understand; learn, O judges of the ends of the earth.
Give ear, you that rule over multitudes, and boast of many nations. For your dominion was given you from the Lord, and your sovereignty from the Most High; he will search out your works and inquire into your plans. Because as servants of his kingdom you did not rule rightly, or keep the law, or walk according to the purpose of God, he will come upon you terribly and swiftly, because severe judgment falls on those in high places. For the lowliest may be pardoned in mercy, but the mighty will be mightily tested.
For the Lord of all will not stand in awe of anyone, or show deference to greatness; because he himself made both small and great, and he takes thought for all alike. But a strict inquiry is in store for the mighty. To you then, O monarchs, my words are directed, so that you may learn wisdom and not transgress. For they will be made holy who observe holy things in holiness, and those who have been taught them will find a defense. Therefore set your desire on my words; long for them, and you will be instructed.
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."
Jesus states clearly, "Your faith has saved you." We need that sort of faith, able to recognise our total dependency on God for life and for its good use, and also for its cooperation with others and towards eternal life. By faith God enables us to put our best self to the service of one another, and so to give praise to our Maker. This injunction to live within bonds of love and community, is expressed very simply. To the Samaritan who "threw himself at his feet," Jesus replied, "Stand up and go on your way." He stands up with dignity and joy, healed of the dreadful disease of leprosy, and goes his way, no longer forbidden to live with others, no longer ostracized as unclean, resuming life as it ought to be, now blessed with good health and gratitude to God.
Along with our Lord's encouraging remark the gospel contains a sad ommentary on human ingratitude. For 'Were not all ten made whole? Where are the other nine? Was there no one to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?' At that time, in the eyes of most Jews the Samaritans were scorned, feared and avoided, after long history of mutual distrust. Some five centuries earlier, the Jews had refused to allow the Samaritans to cooperate in rebuilding the temple (Ezra 4) and in return the Samaritans built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim and tended to side against the Jews in later wars. Jesus' words were noted this antagonism but were trying to break it down and show that even Samaritans could have true faith.
Was it their sudden return to good health that distracted the other nine so that they forgot about Jesus and failed in the normal human courtesy of returning to thank Jesus for their cure. Strangely enough, God's finest gifts--life, strength, the ability to think imaginatively and to act creatively--easily become the means by which we forget God and also forget to serve our neighbours. With good reason the Book of Wisdom warns us about the proper use of life and talents. It admonishes us that the Lord made the great as well as the small, and provides for all alike; but that a tougher scrutiny awaits people of power and influence.
"Who has returned to give thanks to God, except this stranger?" We have all been graced in various ways; we have all received a great deal as a gift. We don't always recognize that the ultimate source of all these graces and gifts is God. That is what distinguished the Samaritan leper from the other nine in today's gospel. All ten were equally graced; they had all been healed by Jesus of a disease that left them only half-alive. But it is said of only one of them that, finding himself cured, he turned back praising God at the top of his voice. This man threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him because he recognized that God had given this cure. He thanked Jesus, but he praised God. He had the insight to see that God was at work in his healing.
Jesus recognized this leper's insight; he didn't say, "nobody has come back to thank me, except this foreigner," but "no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner." That is why Jesus goes on to say to him, "your faith has saved." This leper had the vision of faith; he recognized God at work in the good that had happened to him, in the extraordinary way he had been graced. We are called to that same vision of faith; we are called to recognize and to acknowledge God at work in all those experiences of grace that bless us in the course of our lives. God's grace calls forth our praise.