Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bible Study: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Luke 17:11-19
Fides tua te salvum fecit.
Download this study [MS Word, 47 k, 4pp]
Opening Prayer
If you want to see the readings for Sunday in their entirety, click the Scripture reference above.

The Latin phrase above is from the Gospel reading. It is from the Vulgate, and it corresponds to what Jesus says at the end of v. 19: "Your faith has saved you."

We start our prayer as we always do:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Now we pause to call to mind our sins and ask the Lord for His forgiveness:

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

This is a traditional Catholic prayer to the Holy Spirit:

V. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
R. And kindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And you will renew the face of the earth.

O God, who has taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

St. Jerome is the patron saint of Bible scholarship; St. David is the patron saint of the parish:

St. Jerome: pray for us.
St. David: pray for us.

Questions from Last Time
There are none this time, but Sonny suggested we have a few minutes after the opening prayer next week to answer any questions that might have been raised from hearing the readings at Mass, or from the homily. Good idea!

Questions to Consider
  1. Have you ever done something nice for a friend or family member, but they never said “thank you” in return? How did it make you feel?
    I know it's happened for me. We expect, not rewards, but at least some small token of appreciation, something that shows the person liked what we did for them, and was moved somehow to show us their gratitude. Sometimes, we can angry and sulky if we don't hear "thank you". We probably remember those times when we we're thanked much longer (and in greater clarity) than those times when we were thanked.
  2. Have you ever neglected to thank someone for a gift or a kindness they showed you? Did they seem hurt or bring it to your attention?
    Yes. Usually I recognize their "sulky" attitude -- the same one I'd have -- and apologize and thank them later.
  3. Do we tend to think of God’s mercy as a one-time, unconditional event? Or do we find ourselves returning to Him for forgiveness?
    At the beginning of every Mass (and at the beginning of every Bible Study that I facilitate) we open with a penitential rite which calls to mind our sins and asks the Lord for mercy.
Context of the Gospel
You can click on the red Scripture links and see them in a pop-up window, as found in the New American Bible. This may be slightly different from the Lectionary.

The First Reading from 2 Kings 5:14-17 (read 2 Kings 5:1-13 for additional context) records a miraculous healing; Naaman, a pagan, is cured of his leprosy by washing in the Jordan seven times, as the prophet Elisha had instructed him to do. When Naaman realized what God had done for him, he wanted to repay Elisha:
2:15 Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”
Jesus spoke in Nazareth (in Luke 4) about this miraculous healing, but the people of his home town did not like what they were hearing:
4:24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.
In the Second Reading from 2 Timothy 2:8-13, Paul reminds Timothy that:
2:12 if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us.
Gospel (Lectionary)
This is the Gospel reading as you will hear it on Sunday, from the Revised New American Bible -- it might not match your New American Bible exactly. I have italicized certain words or phrases that I think are important to focus on (either because the translations differ or because they are profound).
17:11 As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”

14 And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

As they were going they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? 18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” 19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
Gospel (RSV-2CE)
This is the Gospel as it is found in the Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition. I include it so we remember... the Bible was not written in English, and different translations treat things differently. The NAB is more of a dynamic translation, whereas the RSV-2CE is a more literal translation.
17:11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”

And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Note the difference between "have pity" and "have mercy" in v. 13. We'll get into v. 19's translations a little later. Notice the bolded words in vv. 14, 15, 17, and 19. They're not the same Greek word; they're different for a reason.

Study Questions
  1. What parallels do we see between this miraculous healing done by Jesus and that done at the command of Elisha? How were they different?
    Both Naaman and the Samaritan praised God afterwards, and they both wanted to show their gratitude (Naaman to Elisha, the Samaritan to Jesus). Naaman and the Samaritan also have an internal change of heart: Naaman realizes only the God of Israel is a true God, and the Samaritan -- Samaria being a paganized nation -- recognizes God and Jesus.

    But Elisha did not cure Naaman, he simply told Naaman how God instructed him to be cleansed. But as we see from Jesus's ministry (cf. Luke 5:12-14), Jesus cures lepers. Naaman had to do something to be cleansed (wash himself seven times), whereas the lepers didn't. (Yes, they were told to show themselves to the priests, but that was for the proving of their healing.)

  2. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus cured a leper who came to him; here, he cures ten lepers. How many other people do you think the Bible records as healing those with leprosy?
    No other person in the Bible until Jesus cured leprosy. Jesus gave that power to his disciples. For a Jew in Jesus's time to see Jesus cure a leper was a big deal.
  3. Why did Jesus bring up the fact that the one who returned was a “foreigner”? Why is it significant that the leper who returned was a Samaritan?
    As a foreigner, this was foreshadowing the mission to the Gentiles, that non-Jews would have the chance to enter into a saving covenant with God without first being Jews. As a Samaritan, it calls to mind the parable of the Good Samaritan and the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman: even Samaritans can be redeemed! It shows how the Jews were taking Jesus for granted, whereas the Samaritan leper stopped in his tracks and came back immediately to thank Jesus.
  4. What did the Samaritan leper do that the other nine lepers did not do?
    He returned, praising God, to thank Jesus.
  5. The Greek word in verse 19 translated as “saved” and “made well” comes from sozo which has multiple meanings, including “to heal or make well” and “to save” – generally, it implies rescue from danger. It is not the same word used in verses 14, 15, or 17. What is the difference Jesus is making between the two? Were the other lepers healed? Were the other lepers made whole?
    The difference is between physical healing and spiritual healing. The other lepers were cured of their leprosy, but they weren't "made whole". The Samaritan leper was affected more deeply: his heart was changed. We can see, then, that it was Jesus's grace -- his mercy, as they asked for it -- that cured them of their leprosy; but it was the Samaritan's faith -- Jesus identifies it -- that saves him. In other words, only the Samaritan, of those ten lepers, responded to the grace Jesus gave.

    Faith is efficacious -- it is salvific -- it is saving. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is the ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices, which is why we only offer the Eucharist to God now, in the one and the same sacrifice of Calvary for all time. But at the same time, we offer spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, as Psalm 50 reminds us to do.

  6. How is this related to what St. Paul has written about to St. Timothy?
    We must persevere with Jesus, not just take what he's given us and run! We must return to him, and walk with him (cf. 1 John 2:4-6). When Paul says that if we deny Jesus, Jesus denies us, we can see that here: the nine lepers denied Jesus the praise and thanksgiving, and they were denied the healing of their souls. We needn't think this to be an eternal condemnation for them, though: even Peter denied Christ three times, and he was restored in his faith.
  7. What does it mean for us to return to Jesus in the same manner that the Samaritan leper did?
    We must repent, and turn to God. We must thank God in all things and in all times, and not from "far away", but right up close to Him. Think about when you've prayed for something... when you received it, how much time do you spend in prayer thanking God? Maybe our petition-vs-thanksgiving ratio is unbalanced. And Paul's letters -- especially the ones he wrote from prison -- show us that it's possible to thank God even when we're suffering... even for the suffering!
Church Teaching and Commentary
  • St. Athanasius: [These] the Lord again reproves, as He did those lepers who were cleansed, when He loved the one as thankful, but was angry with the others as ungrateful, because they did not acknowledge their Deliverer, but thought more of the cure of the leprosy than of Him who healed them. … And there was more given to him than to the rest; for being cleansed from his leprosy, he heard from the Lord, “Arise, go thy way, thy faith hath saved thee.” For he who gives thanks, and he who glorifies, have kindred feelings, in that they bless their Helper for the benefits they have received. (Letter VI:3, for Easter AD 334)
    We've come to the same conclusions St. Athanasius did. The nine lepers were more concerned with the healing than with the Healer. More was given to the Samaritan, who was healed in body and in soul.
  • Titus, Bishop of Bostra: They associated together from the sympathy they felt as partakers of the same calamity, and were waiting till Jesus passed, anxiously looking out to see Him approach. As it is said, “Which stood afar off”, for the Jewish law esteems leprosy unclean, whereas the law of the Gospel calls unclean not the outward, but the inward leprosy. (Catena Aurea)
    Titus is talking about the sense of spiritual uncleanliness, which the other nine lepers retained, but which the Samaritan had cured.
  • Pope St. Leo I (The Great): I entreat you, beloved, let those words of the Savior touch your hearts, Who, when by the power of His mercy He had cleansed ten lepers, said that only one of them all had returned to give thanks: meaning without doubt that, though the ungrateful ones had gained soundness of body, yet their failure in this godly duty arose from ungodliness of heart. And therefore, dearly-beloved, that this brand of ingratitude may not be applied to you, return to the Lord, remembering the marvels which He has deigned to perform among us; and ascribing our release not, as the ungodly suppose, to the influences of the stars, but to the unspeakable mercy of Almighty God, Who has deigned to soften the hearts of raging barbarians, betake yourselves to the commemoration of so great a benefit with all the vigor of faith. Grave neglect must be atoned for by yet greater tokens of repentance. Let us use the Mercy of Him, Who has spared us, to our own amendment, that the blessed Peter and all the saints, who have always been near us in many afflictions, may deign to aid our entreaties for you to the merciful God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Sermon LXXXIV:2)
    St. Leo agrees with us! Nine had received soundness of body, but only one gained soundness of soul: the others were not healed of their ungodliness of heart. In this sermon of his, St. Leo is reminding baptized, Bible-believing Catholics to "return to the Lord"! Repentance is an every-day thing for Christians. He also points out that pagans attribute good things to the "influences of the stars", whereas we know they are due to the mercy of God.
We had a few interesting questions at the end of the study. Someone wanted to know about the sources I use (there'll be a post for that later today). Someone wanted to know about how the Church chooses the readings for each Mass, so I explained the three-year Sunday cycle (and the two-year weekday cycle) in the Ordinary Form of Mass (the Mass of Paul VI), and the one-year cycle in the Extraordinary Form of Mass (the Mass of Bl. John XXIII).

Now we offer our own prayers of petition and thanksgiving. With the whole Church, we also remember the general intention and the mission intention of Pope Benedict XVI this month:
  • That Christians may not be discouraged by the attacks of secularized society, but with complete trust, may bear witness to their faith and hope.
  • That the faithful may join to their fundamental duty of prayer the support also of economic contributions to the missionary works.
Closing Prayer
After closing prayer, we stuck around for a few extra minutes to pray Compline (which, as I pointed out, Catholics started!).


NanaR said...


Last Sunday I went to Mass in Pennsylvania. My husband and I were visiting my husband's family, who are mostly cradle Catholic.

I was excited about the prospect of going to Mass with my mother-in-law or perhaps one of my husband's aunts. But when Sunday came, I was the only one who went to Mass period (no, they didn't go on Saturday either).

All these folks have experienced the grace of baptism, which I have yet to experience. They USED to go to Mass (according to my husband). But they don't any more.

I know some wonderful, devoted, practicing cradle Catholics. But apparently there are many who have received grace who are more like the 9 lepers, and walk away.

It is very sad.


japhy said...

Sad but true, Ruth. Too many Catholics forget that the grace of God requires a response. You don't shrug your shoulders at God.