October 9, 2022 at Saint Agnes, St William, & St. Peter Parishes in Naples, FL
2 Kings 5, 14-17 + Psalm 98 + 2 Timothy 2, 8-13 + Luke 17:11-19
We all know this episode from Luke’s Gospel very well. If after the first couple of lines you can’t finish the story, you’ve been sleeping or playing with your phone instead of listening. And, at the risk of causing a fuss with the other priests in the parish who have preached this Gospel today at different hours, I suspect that most folks have gone home thinking this all about gratitude and saying thank you. Well, those of you getting accustomed to me would know that I’m not buying that at all. The Gospel is far too complex to be that simple, and taking the easy way out with this text means you have failed to pay attention to the subtle details. It is what Luke does not say that matters here and can lead us deeper in the message.
Remember that episode when a shepherd leaves the 99 and looks for the lost one? Well, here he is again. Jesus wants to know where are the missing 9? “Where are the others?” he asks. Obviously, they were doing exactly what they were told to do, going to the priest. Now, pay attention. The ten asked for mercy. They did not ask to be cleansed. We have no reason to think they knew who Jesus was. In fact, when he is recognized, the Gospel always tells us that. It does not say that here. They are just crying out for mercy as they probably did all the time.
There is something unique about this healing. Jesus never touches them and Luke never says that he got near them. Mysteriously, on their way, they were cleansed. In fact, Luke never says that they got to the priest. It seems to me that their healing came from their obedience, not from touch or some word spoken by Jesus. By going to the priest, they were fulfilling what was required by the law. It’s that obedience to the Law that bought them healing. There’s a message as important as gratitude, but that’s not all. There is more.
That Samaritan realized that there was something more going on here, and he went back full of joyful excitement. But Jesus is not excited. He just says, “What about the rest?” I don’t think he was wondering what happened to them. I think it’s a simple statement recognizing that the nine just returned to a normal life while this one realized that his healing was more than physical. He knew he had been saved. Not so the others. How sad.
He fell at the feet of Jesus. In the original Greek, Luke uses the word, eucharisteo. That’s an important detail that we don’t get in English unfortunately. This is then an act of adoration as much as it is gratitude. He recognized that God was acting through this man. That man realized that there was more here than he had imagined. He did not just get cured of a disease, he was brought to new life, to joy, and to peace, and knew he was in the presence of God. Eucharist!
That man is different from the others. As a Samaritan, he knew very well what it was to be an outcast even before he contracted that disease. Yet, he perceived more than the others. He was not just cured. He was touched to his soul by mercy, and that’s what healed him.
My friends, that’s you and me. We have been touched by mercy. We have come back here to this church to make eucharist which is way more than just saying, “thank you.” It is an act of adoration and an act of incorporation into mercy itself. That one man speaks to us with a message of mercy and its power to heal and restore what is broken in every relationship. Try it. He is a witness to the truth that when we are open and willing to do what Jesus asks, we will receive more than we can imagine.