Monday, October 3, 2016

Gratitude as Faith – 9 October 2016 – 21st Sunday after Pentecost/ Lectionary 28/ Proper 23

When the leper who is an alien (an enemy, a Samaritan) in Jesus’ land comes back with thanksgiving because he is healed, Jesus defines faith. Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well.” The evidence of healing and of faith is gratitude.

Luke 17:11-19

The ten lepers heed Jesus’ command to go show themselves to the priest. They simply obey. The physical healing is described in a passive way: “they were made clean.” Nothing the lepers do is named as the cause of their being made clean.

The Torah demanded that newly healed lepers be inspected by priests trained in detecting whether the diseased person was still a risk to the community (Lev. 13). Only in setting out, in obedience to Jesus' command, do they discover themselves healed of their affliction. Thanks to Jesus, the road to Jerusalem becomes for them the road to salvation, which in its most original sense connoted well-being and healing in the here and now.

Despite their worship of the same God and their reverence for the same Torah, the divisions between Jew and Samaritan were often greater than those between Jew and gentile. Samaritans were thus considered by Jews to be inferior, both in terms of their worship and their lineage. Yet Jesus makes no distinctions—the healing he offers is for all, without distinction. . .

It is the Samaritan, the one thought to be inferior, who alone among all the others, thinks to return to Jesus to express his gratitude. Jesus. . . applauds the Samaritan for his faith, which has “made you well.”

For Luke's community, then, it is faith which saves, not only from disease and physical isolation, but from that spiritual isolation which would separate the members of the Christian community into “superiors” and “inferiors.” Neither distinctive culture, nor worship style, nor ethnic background matter to Jesus, but only gratitude, the gratitude motivated by a faith flowing from one's own encounter with the Lord Jesus. – Lisa Marie Belz

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c

The story of Naaman, the enemy of Israel, called upon to do a simple thing in order to be healed shows again the scriptural emphasis on heeding the wisdom of those who are not held in high esteem. The enemy is the teacher.

It was through Naaman, after all, that the army of Aram successfully raided Israel, taking as booty Israelite captives as their slaves (5:1–2). Nonetheless. . . Israel's defeat by its enemies becomes the unanticipated occasion of the healing of an enemy of Israel by Israel's own God, through the agency of an Israelite prophet, and the cleansing waters of the Jordan, Israel's major river. While Aram may be stronger than Israel militarily, it has neither God nor prophet who can cure its military heroes from their leprosy. . . Naaman is made to be dependent upon Israel's largesse for a cure.

Naaman is too proud, of course, to do a simple thing. In the same way, many of us find it too difficult to get healthy by following the common advice: exercise enough, eat fresh foods, get rest, and pray. We prefer something more complicated––perhaps in keeping with the self-esteem of a general like Naaman. But his servants urge him to trust the instructions of his enemy’s prophet.

Thus the great and mighty warrior prince Naaman . . . is made to recognize his human limits as the tables are overturned and the defeated are exalted to a position of honor as healer, wise counselor, and unique agent of the God of Israel's universal salvation. – Lisa Marie Belz

2 Timothy 2:8-15

When we are called to “get over ourselves” and instead embrace struggles as teachers, we come to learn what Paul urged his sisters and brothers in Christ.

From personal experience, Paul knows that hardship can indeed bear positive fruit, which is why he can insist that “The saying is sure: if we have died with him [Christ], we will also live with him.”

. . . This is not ordinary life, bios, but divine life, designated here and throughout the New Testament as zoe. Christian life is not about warring over wordy doctrinal disputes. . . it is to be about sharing in the life of Christ for the entirety of one's life. – Lisa Marie Belz

Lisa Marie Belz, an Ursuline Sister from Cleveland, Ohio, is assistant professor of religious studies and graduate ministry at Ursuline College, Pepper Pike, Ohio.  

Homily Service 40, no. 11 (2007): 22-32.

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