C Cycle – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22

C Cycle – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22

Lk. 17:11-19

One of the great gifts God has implanted in us is the desire for close intimate relationships.  That should not surprise any of us because we were created in the image and likeness of God and God is, was and always be relational.   The oneness of the trinity is the north star of our quest for physical and emotional intimacy.  Yet, it is the desire for intimacy which is at the root of all our brokenness because our love is self-seeking not outward giving.  Instead of opening ourselves to receive love, we seek self-sufficiency. It is our desires to satisfy ourselves before we even begin to consider the needs of others which prevents us from truly loving or being loved.   

This feeling of being unloved, unappreciated, abandoned, ignored, unloved, unaffirmed or whatever adjective you want to attach to your feeling of isolation is exactly why God sent us Jesus.  Christ came to do more than redeem us, he came to restore what we lost because of Adam and Eve’s desire for self-sufficiency.  It is through the scriptures; through the stories of God’s and Jesus’s interaction with individuals we are taught what God will do for us if we would respond to him.  It is in responding we will discover why we need to allow Jesus to heal our distrust.  Yet opening those wounds is the most difficult act of faith we must do.   Because it demands of us a belief in the outcome.  It demands we not only believe in the outcome, but we also must believe that we are worthy of God’s grace. 

At the time of Jesus, all illnesses and infirmities experienced by anyone was believed to be because of their sin or someone else’s sin.  Remember when the disciples asked Jesus if the man born blind was due to his sin or his parent’s sin (Jn. 9:2).  Jesus answers that question with a firm no. Jesus by his words and actions rebuked that belief and his actions demonstrated all sicknesses was the work of evil which could be overcome by God.  The story of the cleansing of the lepers is another story where he is telling us we too can be cleansed and healed and restored. 

The dictates of the Levitical law mandated lepers must isolate themselves from the community (Lev.13:11).  Not only were they not to have any contact with anyone, but they had to warn others of their disease by loudly proclaiming themselves unclean.  Imagine yourselves, declaring yourselves “unclean” admitting you are a sinner and that is why you have leprosy.

There are profound lessons for us in these readings today.  Naaman, a Syrian, was healed of his leprosy because a little girl told Naaman’s wife he should go to Israel, to the “man of God” to be healed (2 Kings 5).  Arriving in Israel, Elisha sends word to Naaman telling him to go and wash in the river Jordan.  Naaman is upset and questions why Elisha did not come to him and lay his hands on him.  He asks why could he not go wash in a Syrian river instead of the Jordan.  Remember, Naaman is not a Jew; he was not bound by the Levitical laws of isolation, nor did he believe in the one God of Israel. 

But desperation causes us to try anything, hoping for God to respond.  There is a lesson in this story about responding when the direction we are given does not make sense to us.  The servants are correct when they told Naaman, if the prophet had come to him, waved his hands over him, and told him to do something, he would have done it.  We can relate to that, for we like doing something, anything to help us believe God is responding to our action.  Trusting in God is hard for us because we give up self-sufficiency and must depend on God to act.  Go and wash in a river seemed ridiculous to us and to Naaman.  Yet we believe in the waters of Lourdes but how about washing in the Cuyahoga River.  If we were told that is what God wanted us to do to be healed, would we believe it could heal us.  We would rather depend on adhering to rituals, laws, and rules rather than God.  Because like Naaman it seems impossible that his cleansing of our sins by the death of Jesus is hard to grasp.     

We see that same desire to do something in the story of the ten lepers who desperately wanted to be healed by Jesus.  When Jesus said “go show yourselves to the priests” they were comfortable with following that command.  Because that was what was required by the Levitical Law.  The law said they could only be declared clean after a ritual performed by the priest.  That law dictated exactly what they and what the priest must do to be declared clean.  Note, declared clean not cleansed by the action of the priest. 

The priests go to the camp with two live birds, cedar wood, a hyssop, and a scarlet string.  The ritual for cleaning involved with those items is described in Leviticus 14 and when it is complete after 15 days the person is declared clean.  So, the lepers who asked Jesus to heal them are only obeying the law by showing themselves to the priest.  There is more involved with sacrificial animals, shaving of body hair and shedding of the blood by animals all described in Lev. 14 for them to be declared clean.   

That is why the one leper who realized he was cleansed of his leprosy and returns to Jesus is the key to us understanding how we respond to our being cleansed of our sin.  The leper who returns is ignoring the dictates of the law and he knows it is because of Jesus he is made whole.  He shows us by his response how we should be giving Jesus grateful thanksgiving as we gather to celebrate his death and resurrection. Could it be that after giving thanks to Jesus this man went and showed himself to the priests and is restored to the community?

He has ignored the impulse to believe God can only act in certain ways that are fixed and understandable to us.  Naaman believed action by Elisha would be better than washing in the Jordan.  We need to stop restricting how God can act in our lives and allow the gift of grace to become real in our lives.  Naaman and that one leper had their lives changed because they acted on what seemed impossible.  Each of them received more than a healing; they were transformed. 

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