Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 17:11-19

In this week’s Gospel we enter the third and final section of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Luke gives us a geographical marker:

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.

Scholarly opinion differs as to how accurate this description might be but what is certain is that Jesus is heading to Jerusalem, the city of salvation.

The story of the Ten Lepers is a story only recorded by Luke. It is a moment of encounter which gives us a window into the whole story of salvation. It is striking that in all the stories of healing in Gospels the person who seeks healing finds some way of presenting themselves to Jesus. It might be by calling out, or by touching his garment or by being lowered through the roof by friends. The initiative is always with the person who wants healing. Jesus doesn’t impose his healing on anyone. 

Jesus is met by a group of lepers who find themselves physically and spiritually marginalised. They keep their distance but take the initiative: ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ They don’t ask to be healed, cured or cleansed. What they ask for is mercy. There’s no ritual or touching involved, they are simply sent on their way to show themselves to the priests and as they go realise that they have been cleansed.

Much is understandably made of the one leper who comes back to thank Jesus. It’s easy for us to draw from this the importance of gratefulness etc. What is of interest to me is that Jesus doesn’t ask the Samaritan to go and get the other nine and shame them into gratefulness. (We have all surely had this happen to us as children and perhaps as adults.) The nine are left free. I like to imagine that in the days to come, as they adjust to their new reality, something stirs inside them, and space is made for gratefulness and praise. They’d be unlikely to be able to catch Jesus up and thank him personally. But perhaps they now look for opportunities to show mercy to others?

Where is God calling you to show mercy this week?