The first reading gives a parallel story to the Gospel. Namaan is cleansed of his leprosy in a foreshadowing of baptism by the prophet Elisha. Once healed, Namaan is filled with gratitude and tries to thank him with a gift. Elisha refuses, and Namaan turns his gratitude into faith in Elisha’s God. Elisha does not want a material gift from Namaan, and when Namaan realizes this, Namaan turns his gratitude into joining Elisha in faith. Instead of transaction of material gift, Namaan expresses gratitude by allying himself with the values of the man who saved him.
Both Namaan and the ten lepers of the gospel are healed because they follow directions of one who seeks to help them. Neither Namaan nor the lepers are healed instantly. Namaan must go to the river Jordan and dunk himself seven times. The lepers must go to the priests. In both of these situations though the healer could have made it instantaneous, those who are to be healed need to express a desire for healing and act upon it.
In the first century, disease was considered an outward sign of inward sin, or the result of familial sin. Lepers were avoided not because others fear being sick, but because they are “unclean” spiritually. Jesus’s healing involves lepers a few times in the gospels, and each time it is utterly shocking to those around him.
The way Jesus heals the lepers in this week’s gospel is by telling them to go the priests. Jesus does not lay hands upon them or draw them close to him, but instead gives them a direction, the lepers are healed. The only person who returns to thank Jesus for healing him is a foreigner.
When Jesus tells the healed leper, “your faith has saved you.” Jesus does not just say, “you are healed,” but instead promise salvation. For Luke the writer, faith is intimately connected with salvation, and salvation is promised to even the foreigner of the day.
As St. Paul proclaims in today’s second reading. “The word of God is not chained” to human understanding. God’s love transcends the human barriers we create. Let us celebrate this reality. In the words of the psalmist, may we “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done
By Deacon Faiva Po’oi
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: A Reflection