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Sunday Scripture: A small bit of faith leads to big things

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

By Father Timothy Schehr

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time: 2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19

In last Sunday’s Gospel the disciples learned that the smallest bit of faith can lead to great things. This Sunday’s Gospel shows such faith in action.
Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. This is not just information on Luke’s part. The evangelist wants his readers to understand that the lesson in this unit of his Gospel will help them understand just what they need if they are going to follow the Lord on the journey of faith.

At the approach to a certain village 10 lepers address the Lord. They stand at a distance. They know social conventions of the day do not allow them to draw close to others in society. So they raise their voices and from a distance ask Jesus to take pity on them. When Jesus tells them to go and show themselves to the priests, they do not hesitate to obey His word. They certainly have faith in the Lord’s power to heal them. Once the priests declare them clean they will be free to circulate among the people they had been separated from for so long.

Already this is an impressive passage about faith. But there’s more. As these 10 lepers make their way to show themselves to the priests, they are healed. One of them immediately returns. He raises his voice again, this time to give glory to God. And he falls at the feet of Jesus to thank Him.
This one is a Samaritan, a foreigner. Remember that James and John earlier in Luke’s Gospel wanted to call down fire from heaven on these foreigners. Now a Samaritan becomes a model of true faith. Jesus draws attention to the fact that only this Samaritan returned to give thanks. We can only hope James and John were listening. And look at the big results that came from a little bit of faith. This Samaritan’s faith not only leads to healing it also leads to salvation. As Jesus tells him, “…your faith has saved you.”

The first reading matches the Gospel perfectly. It begins with the detail that Naaman plunged into the Jordan seven times. Who is Naaman? And why is he plunging into the Jordan? Obviously we are right in the middle of the story, so let’s back up.

Naaman is a foreigner who has leprosy. A young Hebrew girl in his household one day makes the simple observation that if Naaman would go to Israel the prophet Elisha could heal him. Within a few short verses Naaman is on his way with a letter of introduction from the royal court of his native Syria. It’s amazing that a few words from a young girl would reach the royal court and get Naaman started on his journey to healing.

Initially Naaman’s pride gets in the way. He is reluctant to carry out Elisha’s instruction to wash in the Jordan. He argues there are better rivers in Syria.
But his own staff pleads with him to listen to the prophet. And so, as the first reading begins, Naaman plunges into the Jordan and is healed. But his healing reaches far deeper than the surface of his skin; his heart is committed to the Lord. This great general now identifies himself as a servant to Elisha. He requests earth from Israel so he may worship the God of Israel on Israelite soil. Like the leper in the passage from Luke, Naaman is completely healed.

In the second reading, Paul explains to his associate, Timothy, his complete dedication to the proclamation of the Gospel. The apostle is more than ready to endure any hardship as long as it leads to the salvation of others through the power of the risen Lord.
Father Schehr is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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