Jerusalem Bible © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Company Inc.
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’
Did you know?
Points of interest and Catholic lore
- In the biblical material, the term leper probably referred to people who were suffering from a variety of skin disorders.
- Under Jewish Law, lepers were ostracised and forced to live outside the city limits. It was thought that they would contaminate others in both a physical and religious sense.
- Leprosy was seen as a punishment for sin, so lepers were moral outcasts as well as physical outcasts.
- When a leper was ‘cured’, certain purification rites were performed by the priests (Leviticus 14). It was only after purification that lepers could again come into contact with friends and relations and once again take part in the religious life of Israel.
- There was an ancient animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans dating back to the period after the reign of King Solomon, when his death resulted in civil war and the splintering of the kingdom into two. The break-away northern kingdom of Samaria built a new temple on Mount Gerizim, rejecting the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans were considered apostates by those of the southern kingdom of Judah.
Exploring the Word
This gospel is another of Jesus’ teachings about what real faith entails. It is not simply another miracle story. The lepers begin by recognising their own need for healing. It is this recognition that prompts them to cry out to Jesus, imploring him for mercy. In their need, they turn to Jesus as their hope. He responds with compassion and sends them to the priests to fulfill Jewish Law. Nine assumedly complete that journey and re-enter the religious and social world of the Jews. One, however, does not go on to the priests and cultic life of Israel. Instead, he turns back towards Jesus after realising the true source of his wholeness. It is this recognition that his salvation has come through Jesus and not the fulfillment of Jewish Law that assures him of being saved. His response is appropriate: he falls to his knees, praising God loudly and giving thanks to Jesus for all that has been done for him. The fact that he is a Samaritan, a foreigner, may have spoken to Luke’s community, which was made up primarily of non-Jewish believers in Christ.
- How do you respond to Jesus?
- How do you give praise to God?
- What needs healing in you?
- How do you offer thanks and praise?
Opportunities for group discussion and personal prayer
- Have you ever had the experience of being an ‘outcast’ through no fault of your own?
- ‘Master! Take pity on us.’ Have there been times when you have been moved by pity or compassion to do something for another?
- What reasons do you have to give thanks to God?
- The action of Jesus in this text would have completely turned around the lives of the lepers. Share stories of a time when your life reached a significant turning point. What was its impact on you and those close to you?
- Be inclusive of people who are sometimes treated as ‘outcasts’ in our society. Say thank you to someone who has done something for you.
- Use a part of the ‘prayer’ in the Epistle to Timothy that is today’s second reading:
If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.
If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.
Sharing the tradition
A closer look at the Scripture of the day, to see how it makes more explicit God’s word to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ
The ‘leprosy’ of this gospel text can be seen as a symbol for anything that acts as a barrier between people. Jesus’ ministry is full of examples of him breaking down barriers and drawing people into the fullness of life that is at the heart of the Gospel.
- Brainstorm some examples of the barriers that Jesus sought to bring down.
- The Church is called to imitate Christ in breaking down barriers, and all the followers of Jesus are similarly called. Brainstorm some of the barriers that exist between people in our world (for example, ethnicity, disability, religious intolerance, levels of affluence and so on). Discuss ways in which the Church is working to break down such barriers and promote an attitude of ‘one human family’.
- You could tell the stories of great figures in church history who worked for the inclusion of those who were considered outcasts (for example Damien of Molokai, Mother Theresa).
- You could discuss recent trends in the Church to promote peace and religious dialogue in troubled places in the world.
Symbols and images
Today’s gospel is another example of Jesus being recognised by an outsider—in this case, both a leper and a Samaritan—while those who should know who he is, his own compatriots, do not respond appropriately. We often witness ‘acts of faith’ from surprising quarters!
Living the Word
Practical ideas for group leaders to employ in connecting Scripture and daily life, with suggestions for music and environment
- In what ways does your parish work to break down the barriers in our society? Are there occasions when the community could pray for peace or unity in our divided world—for example, in prayers of intercession. Is this done as well as it could be?
- Invite those gathered to consider what it is in their lives that keeps them cut off from others or from God. Use reflective music and a period of quiet contemplation. A suitable song could be ‘Out of the depths’ (GA 227). Conclude with the prayer of exorcism in the RCIA at §94K.