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.
Do justice for the weak and the orphan,
defend the afflicted and the needy.
Rescue the weak and the poor;
set them free from the hand of the wicked. (R./)
I have said to you: 'You are gods
and all of you, sons of the Most High.'
And yet, you shall die like men,
you shall fall like any of the princes. (R./)
Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee, on his way to Jerusalem. 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."
"Your faith has made you well." What a wonderful gift that poor, suffering leper received, by the healing power of Jesus. We need faith like that, knowing our dependency on God for life and for health. Faith helps us cooperate with others on the journey of life. By faith we can encourage one another. To the Samaritan leper who expressed his thanks for being cured, Jesus said, "Stand up and go on your way." The man had been restored to dignity and hope, healed of his dreadful disease, and went his way. He was no longer prohibited from living beside other people, no longer ostracized as unclean. He could resume normal life, now blessed with new gratitude to God for his good health.
Alongside his response of gratitude is a commentary on human ingratitude. For Jesus asked "Was there no one to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?" At that time the Samaritans were scorned, feared and avoided, after centuries of distrust. Five centuries earlier, the Jews refused to let Samaritans take any part in rebuilding the temple, and in return the Samaritans built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim. From then on there was open hostility between Jews and Samaritans. Jesus wanted to lessen this antagonism by showing that even the outsiders could have true faith.
Was it their sudden, unexpected return to good health that distracted the other nine, so that they forgot the normal courtesy of returning to thank the healer for their cure? Strangely enough, God's finest gifts, our life and health, our ability to think and act creatively, are often taken for granted. With good reason the Book of Wisdom warns us to value and use our talents. Gratitude is better than pride, "For the lowliest may be pardoned in mercy, but the mighty will be mightily tested."
"Who has returned to give thanks to God, except this stranger?" We don't always remember that the ultimate source of our graces and gifts is God. That is what makes the Samaritan leper special, and distinguishes him from the other nine in today's gospel. All ten were equally healed by Jesus of a disease that left them only half-alive. But only one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice. This man knelt down in a gesture of deep appreciation. He thanked Jesus, but he praised God. He had the insight to understand that God had cured him.
Jesus praised this man's insight. He didn't ask any thanks for himself but for the healing power of God. "Nobody has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner." He goes on to assure him, "your faith has saved." This leper had a grateful heart. He recognized God at work in his recovery. We are called to that same gratitude, to recognize God at work in the graces that bless us in the course of our lives. God's grace invites our grateful praise.