2 Kings 5, 14-17 + Psalm 98 + 2 Timothy 2, 8-13 + Luke 17, 11-19
An easy lesson on gratitude here; but way more besides. None the less, it’s probably a lesson worth a review now and then in an age when the art of writing a “Thank You” note seems to have passed. An age of privilege rarely expresses thanks except when there the hope of getting more. However, somehow this leprosy has made companions of Jews and a Samaritan. How odd and unexpected. Suffering can often bring together folks who have nothing more in common or folks who are actually (as in this example) quite at odds with one another. But this terrible sickness is not all they have in common: they are outcasts and they all turn to Jesus of Nazareth in hope.
They get sent to the priest. That’s an odd command for a Samaritan to follow. There would be every reason to suspect that the Priest should refuse to see him, refuse anything to do with him. After all, he’s two-time loser: a Leper and a Samaritan. We don’t know what happened when he went to the priest, but I like to think that the priest did what was expected and threw the Samaritan out. In sense, this story has as much to do with being “in” and being “out” as it does with being grateful. The nine get back “in” when they go to the priest. That’s what the visit was all about, being restored to the “fold” so to speak ,or to the tribe. Leprosy had expelled them. The priests recognition restored them. But restored them to what or to whom?
The Samaritan has no where to go, so he returns to the one who accepted him in the first place, and in this act expresses his gratitude; and then, by that gesture, he is gathered in, restored and confirmed to be among the “saved.” The nine never hear that good news. They are content to be restored to the tribe, back into the normal life-style of the day, and as far as we can tell, they never hear those wonderful words announcing and confirming their salvation.
There is something admirable about this Samaritan just like the other one who picks up a man left at the side of a road by robbers. He not only does what is right, he goes a little further. The nine did what they were told, and no more. The Samaritan did the same but more. Somehow that little extra makes a difference and makes a story to share about salvation, what it means, and what happens to someone who does more than just ask Jesus for something they want.
Luke writes to a church with a reminder that being included is good and brings wholeness; but we might want to consider just what group we want to be part of. Those nine seem more interested in being part of a group that is just like them; exclusive and probably considering themselves privileged. The Samaritan sought to be counted among the grateful saved.
Luke writes to a church with a reminder that just doing what you are told to do is not quite enough. That stuff makes Jesus sad. Doing a little more than is expected seems to draw one closer to the one who saves.
Luke also writes to a church with a reminder that real prayer is not just about begging for mercy and coming to Jesus just when you need or want something. It is the prayer of gratitude that shows real character, faith, and goodness. This is the prayer of the Church that we call “Eucharistic.” Absence from the Eucharistic assembly raises some serious questions then about one’s faith, one’s relationship with Jesus of Nazareth, and about just where and to whom one belongs.
It’s a good story to think about, and we probably all ought to reflect a bit on just how it is and when it is that we pray, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to think about how much more we can do than simply what is commanded of us. And finally, a little reflection on just what group we would like to and long to be a part of might not hurt either. God is Good.