This past Sunday’s gospel reading was Luke 17:11-19, the story of Jesus healing ten lepers. The homily was quite good, focusing on communication and gratitude, but, most often, preaching on this reading centers around only the Samaritan being grateful, while the other nine were not because they did not return immediately to thank Jesus. I have long thought that this was being overly judgmental, as we do not know what happened to the other nine. I prefer not to use the silence of the gospel to assume the worst.
Year ago, I wrote a letter to a columnist from the (Syracuse) Catholic Sun about this gospel reading. I wrote about how the other nine (presumably) Jewish men who continued on to show themselves to the priests were doing as Jesus told them to do, acting in accordance with Jewish law, which had previously forced them, as lepers, to keep a distance from the community and even from their own families. Only by showing themselves to the priests could they rejoin their family and community and go the the temple or synagogue again. They may very well have given thanks to God and lived lives overflowing with gratitude. They may have found Jesus at a later time to thank him. They may have become his disciples. We simply do not know.
Maybe this healing story shares an underlying theme with some of the parables, such as the the Good Samaritan. Observance of the letter of the law prevents the priest and Levite from helping the man who was robbed and beaten. For them, the Law takes precedence over love of neighbor and showing compassion.
The columnist did not appreciate my insights, but perhaps you will…