The Gospel. St. Luke xvii. 11.
And it came to pass, as Jesus went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
There’s an old saying among stand-up comedians that goes, “timing is everything”. Well, the same is true for sermon writing. Last week, we had the parable of the Good Samaritan, with all the great lessons that is contains. This week, we get 10 lepers. There are only so many ways to talk about leprosy, so one must be careful.
Fortunately I noticed that last week’s Gospel, and this weeks, share one particular thing in common; Samaritans. Not only do both lessons have a Samaritan as a main character, but those Samaritans are also depicted as exhibiting exemplary behavior; whether it was caring for their fellow man, or giving thanks to God. We are left to ask; why does Luke single out Samaritans for these characters?
By now you all should know how Samaritans were considered to be lower-class people during Our Lord’s time on earth. The Jews looked down on Samaritans as being inferior because they didn’t follow the Mosaic Law in the same way; they were “heretics; they weren’t a “clean” people. To make matters worse, at one point in history, Samaritans had sided against the Jews when a certain Syrian king had attempted to persecute those who practiced the old religion. All this led to a long-standing schism between the Jews and the Samaritans and a lingering animosity.
This is, of course, an over-simplification. Basically, the Samaritans faced a sort of discrimination that is similar to what some ethnic groups have faced in our country. As far as the Jews were concerned, Samaritans were the dregs of society. Well, of course you have to know that these were precisely the sort of people that Jesus would use to teach self-righteous Jews a thing or two.
The New Testament is rife with references to Samaritans, but most particularly do we hear about them in the Gospels of Luke and John. And between them we see two themes; Jesus goes out of his way to identify them; and the Samaritans show themselves to be exemplary through their actions and their belief in our Lord. Here it is that we see examples for ourselves. Here we see where we are the Samaritans.
The Samaritan in today’s Gospel sets forth the following example; and he fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks. Gratitude; I’ve spoken about this before. We are called to be like that leper, praising God and giving him thanks for His Mercy, His Blessings. Before anything else, before we ask for anything, we must stop and say, “thank you, Lord”, for everything we have, everything He has given to us.
Next; John, chapter four, verse nine; Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus came to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, to US. Further, he came to those who are lost, those who are considered to be of low-estate, to the poor and outcast of society. WE are COMMANDED to follow this example; to reach out to those whom society ignores or casts aside; We are COMMANDED to associate with those who are sinners so that WE can teach them the Gospel, proclaim the good news, and show them the glory of God. WE have to go to THEM.
Again, St. John, chapter four, verses 39 and 40; And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, “He told me all that ever I did”. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. We hear, and we believe; we see, and we believe; we believe to the point where we must have contact with Our Lord. We ask him, we beg him to enter our lives; to stay with us; to teach us; “I believe Lord; help thou my unbelief”.
Finally, we have that other work attributed to St. Luke; the Acts of the Apostles; chapter 8, verses 5 and 8; Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.; And there was great joy in that city. Samaria; a whole region full of Gentiles, sinners, lower-caste people; and they were among the first to hear, believe and rejoice at the good news of the Gospel! These people, who Jewish society looked down upon, accepted and believed that the Messiah had come!
There’s another old saying that I’m sure you’ve all heard; “try walking a mile in another man’s shoes”. Well, we must walk a mile as Samaritans. We must be Samaritans. And when society looks down on us because of our traditional faith and morals, our response must be to hear, believe and rejoice for our traditional Catholic faith. While we won’t be among the first to believe, we still must be steadfast in that faith and proclaim it without hesitation. Further, we must take that faith, that good news, out into the world; we must take it to the poor, the sinners, to the people that society mistreats.
And just like that leper in today’s Gospel, we must give thanks. We must be grateful for the blessings God has given us. We must focus on those blessings, and not on the trials and tribulations that we face every day; those are just the things that make us stronger; things that strengthen our faith; things that give us opportunities to show the world that no matter what is thrown at us, we will respond by declaring our love of God.
So now, ask the question again; why does Luke single out Samaritans for these characters? Is it because of their low societal status? Or is it because of their example, not only to the Jews of two thousand years ago, but for us today as well; an example of Faith, compassion and gratitude that we should all seek. So I submit to you today that we all should aspire to be Samaritans. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
Trinity XIV – 2015