28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle C)

Readings:
2 Kings 5:14-17
Psalm 98:1-4
2 Timothy 2:8-13
Luke 17:11-19

Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for humanity is revealed in the two Testaments, and that is why we read and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: Being Grateful to God
"May our love for you express itself in our eagerness to do good for others" is the petition of our opening prayer in this Sunday's liturgy. Being "grateful" is dependent on remembering all the good things God has done for us, and that "remembering" should generate our thanks and our gratitude to a loving God who calls us His children. We who have been redeemed and have died to sin in Christ (through faith and baptism) should heed St. Paul's last words to St. Timothy: "If we have died with him, we shall also live with him." A Christian life is a sign of gratitude and appreciation for the gift of redemption and the promise of eternal salvation that God has graciously given us.

In the First Reading, a Gentile shows his gratitude to God for his physical healing after he bathed in the waters of the Jordan River by making a profession of faith to the God of Israel. The healing waters Naaman experienced were a foreshadowing of Christian baptism in which believers are healed spiritually of the ravages of sin and death to rise out of the waters regenerated to new life in Christ. Naaman's healing foreshadows the spiritual healing Christ offers to all peoples of all nations through the ministry of His universal Church.

Our Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 98. In this psalm, we praise God because, like the miracle God worked in the conversion of Naaman, "The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power." In the Magnificat, the Virgin Mary's canticle of praise celebrates these same actions of God's love and His faithfulness to His people. God's mighty works reach their climax in the Incarnation of the Messiah and in His death and victorious Resurrection. In this climactic act, God reveals His justice to all the nations of the earth (Lk 1:46-55). The Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception with Psalm 98.

The Second Reading is from St. Paul's second and last letter to St. Timothy, written from his Roman prison cell. Paul wants Timothy to understand that the Christian life requires not only a witness for Christ but also endurance and even suffering. Paul follows this hard teaching by the assurance that, even if we stray from the narrow path to salvation, Jesus is faithful in continuing to call His own (those who belong to Him in Christian baptism) to repentance and salvation until they reach the end of their life's journey and join Him in glory.

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus heals ten men of leprosy. The only man who returns to thank Him is a Samaritan. When Jesus calls the man a "foreigner," He identifies him as an outsider and not a privileged member of the Sinai Covenant like the other nine Jews He also healed. Jesus judges the man's cry of gratitude and glorifying God as evidence of his conversion and tells him, "stand up and go; your faith has saved you." It is ironic that it is a man who is not of the covenant who returns in gratitude to give thanks to God while the Jewish lepers did not. It is a sign of future events concerning Jesus and the Jews. The Jews who accepted the gift of healing without expressing their gratitude have missed out one the most extraordinary moments of their lives as will their covenant brothers who reject the Messiah and His works!

The lesson for us is that we must guard against being like the ungrateful nine lepers who accepted the work of God and then abandoned Him in continuing their secular lives. We must strive to be like Naaman the Syrian, to be like the one leper who returned, and to follow the example of the Virgin Mary who demonstrated her gratefulness to God through her obedience and faith. We must acknowledge God's gifts, and we must daily turn back to Him in repentance and gratitude. The Christian walk is one of constant repentance and conversion in seeking out our Lord and Savior and in giving thanks to Him in the celebration of the Eucharist. We all want to hear those words of Jesus to the one grateful leper on the day of our judgment before the throne of God, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."

The First Reading
2 Kings 5:14-17 ~ The Gratitude of General Naaman
14 Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean of his leprosy. 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." 16 Elisha replied, "As the LORD [YHWH] lives whom I serve, I will not take it"; and despite Naaman's urging, he still refused. 17 Naaman said, "If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the LORD [YHWH]."

Naaman was a Gentile general who served the king of Damascus, and he suffered from the disfiguring disease of leprosy. In desperation, he sought out the Israelite prophet Elisha and asked for healing through the power of Elisha's God. At first, Naaman resisted Elisha's order to immerse seven times in the waters of the Jordan River, but he finally submitted and was healed. In gratitude, the Gentile returned to the prophet and acknowledged that Yahweh, God of Israel, is the one true God. He offered the prophet a gift, which Elisha refused, saying that he is only God's servant (verse 16). Naaman then requests two loads of earth from the land of the God of Israel with the promise that he will no longer offer sacrifice to other gods (verse 17). Naaman's request for earth from Israel so that he can properly worship Yahweh demonstrates the pagan mindset that a deity is identified with the land where he is worshiped.

The story of the Gentile general offers several theological insights:

  1. The superiority of the waters of Israel over the waters of foreign lands and by implication the superiority of Israel's God over foreign gods.
  2. God's works of mercy are not limited to Israelites.
  3. The gratefulness of the Gentile as opposed to the ingratitude of the Israelites in this period of apostasy in their worship of pagan gods.

The healing waters Naaman experienced become a foreshadowing of Christian baptism in which believers are healed spiritually of the ravages of sin and death to rise out of the waters regenerated to new life in Christ. Jesus referred to the miracle of Naaman's healing in His first teaching which He gave at His hometown Synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4:27. In that teaching, Jesus told the congregation: "Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." In this episode, Jesus' references to the prophets Elijah and Elisha (Lk 4:24-27) serve to identify Jesus also as a prophet from God and to identify the Israelites as suffering from the same ungrateful attitude as the people in the time of those prophets. At the same time Jesus emphasizes God's willingness to turn to the Gentiles, as He healed Naaman. It is a foreshadowing of what is to come when many Jews reject their Messiah and the Gospel message of salvation is sent to the Gentile nations.

Responsorial Psalm 98:1-4 ~ Praise God for His Wondrous Deeds
Response: "The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power."

1 Sing to the LORD [YHWH] a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; his right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm.
Response:
2 The LORD has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice. 3 He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel.
Response:
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. 4 Sing joyfully to the LORD [YHWH], all you lands: break into song; sing praise.
Response:

The beginning and end of this psalm are almost identical to Psalm 96, but in the case of the invitation to worship that is addressed to Israel, Paslm 98 presents Yahweh as a victorious king. Verse 1 begins with an invitation to sing to the Lord in celebration of the great things he has done for Israel (verses 1-3). It is Yahweh who led Israel out of slavery in Egypt; it was a victory witnessed by all the Gentile nations in which God revealed His justice (verse 2). He has done these things because of His love for Israel and His faithfulness to His people (verse 3). Then in verse 4, all the earth is called upon to join in singing God's praises in gratitude for His mighty works.

In the Magnificat, the Virgin Mary's canticle of praise celebrates these same actions of God's love for Israel and His faithfulness to His people. God's mighty works reach their climax in the Incarnation of the Messiah and in His death and victorious Resurrection. In this climactic act, God reveals His justice to all the nations of the earth (Lk 1:46-55). The Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception with Psalm 98.

The Second Reading 2 Timothy 2:8-13 ~ Remember Jesus and be Faithful
8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my Gospel 9 for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory. 11 This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; 12 if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. 13 If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

St. Paul is writing to St. Timothy from his prison cell in Rome during his second Roman incarceration. When he was imprisoned in Caesarea (Acts 23:33-35; 24:27) and during his first imprisonment in Rome, his condition was more like that of "house arrest" in that he could receive visitors, and he could even teach the Church by proclaiming the Gospel "without hindrance" (Acts 28:16, 30-31). However, the tone of this letter is one of solemn resignation. He can receive visitors but many of his former friends have deserted him (2 Tim 2:9, 15). He has come to the end of his "race" and he wants to prepare Timothy to carry on in his absence. In this passage, Paul begins with a summary of the Gospel he has preached about Christ (verse 8) and concludes with what may be part of any early Christian hymn (verses 11-13). The message of the saying/hymn is that through baptism Christians die spiritually with Christ with the hope that they will live and reign with Him forever.

Paul also wants Timothy to understand that the Christian life requires not only a witness for Christ but also endurance and even suffering as the final judgment will show and as Paul's own life demonstrates. His sufferings, including his imprisonment for preaching the Gospel (verse 9), are helpful examples to other faithful Christians for obtaining the salvation and glory available in Christ Jesus (verse 10). Following his reminder by the warning that Jesus will be true to defend those who are faithful but will disown those who deny him (12-13). Paul is referring to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 10:32-33 when Jesus said: "Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father" (also see Lk 12:8-9). Jesus will stand as our advocate before God's throne of Judgment and will acknowledge those who have acknowledged Him in their earthly lives, but as for those who deny the Christ before men He will also deny them before the angels of God. However, Paul follows the hard teaching in verse 12 by the assurance that even if we stray from the narrow path to salvation that Jesus is faithful in continuing to call His own (those who belong to Him in Christian baptism) to repentance and salvation (verse 13).

The Gospel of Luke 17:11-19 ~ Gratitude of One and Ingratitude of Nine in the Healing of the Ten Lepers
As he was continuing his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through [between] 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 voice, 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."

11 As he was continuing his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through [between] Samaria and Galilee.
The last location Luke in 13:31 indicates that Jesus was in the territory of Perea on the east side of the Jordan River, the territory that Herod Antipas ruled in addition to the Galilee. That Jesus was in Perea for a time is also recorded in John 10:40 when Jesus withdrew across the river into Perea after He attended the Feast of Dedication in December of the last months of His ministry that will reach its climax in the spring. St. Luke lists Samaria before Galilee, therefore, the word translated "through" might be better translated as "between" (an acceptable alternate translation) making the location of His travels "between Samaria and Galilee." St. John notes that Jesus returned across the Jordan from Perea into Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead (Jn chapter 11). Then withdrew to the region of the Judean wilderness to the north of Jerusalem, which could be the northern part of the wilderness in the district of Samaria (Jn 11:54). Luke 17:16 may suggest that He was in the district of southern Samaria which fits with that interpretation. Jesus is making His way toward the Jordan River Valley and down to Jericho (see Lk 18:35); from Jericho, He will make His way up to Jerusalem.

12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him 13 and raised their voice, saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
Jesus enters an unnamed village (presumably on the border between Samaria and Judea) where ten lepers greet him at a distance. The number "ten" may be significant. In the symbolic meaning of numbers in Scripture, ten is the number signifying perfection of order in God's divine plan; for example, there are ten commandments, there are ten Egyptian plagues, and there are ten virgins in Jesus' parable representing the communities of the Church (Mt 25:1-13).
The ten lepers stand at a distance because those suffering from contagious skin diseases were "unclean" and were not allowed to enter villages (Num 5:2-3) or to approach a "clean" person (Lev 13:45-46). They cried out for mercy and begged Jesus to heal them. The outflowing of God's mercy is, according to St. Luke, part of the expectation concerning the visitation of God (see Lk 1:50, 54, 58, 72, 78).

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.
As in His other encounter with a leper, He tells them to be obedient to the Law and to show themselves to a priest. Jesus is giving them the instruction that a Jew must follow if cleanseed of a skin disease in order to be received back into the community. See Lk 5:14; Lev 13:49; Lev 14:2-4, 19-20.

Their obedience in following His instruction leads to their healing. Presumably, all the men were healed, but only the Samaritan returned in gratitude to thank Jesus. He is the one who would not be welcomed at the Jerusalem Temple or by a Jewish priest. A Samaritan would have to go to his priest who was an illegitimate priest according to the Law. His act of prostrating himself at Jesus' feet and giving thanks is a sign that he acknowledges Jesus as an agent of God. In the man "giving thanks," St. Luke uses the Greek word eucherestein—the verb form of the noun that gives us the word "Eucharist." The same verb is used at the Last Supper. This event is another positive example of an outsider who is a Samaritan (see Lk 11:29-37 the Parable of the Good 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."
Jesus asks three rhetorical questions in verses 17-18:

  1. Ten were cleansed, were they not?
  2. Where are the other nine?
  3. Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?

When Jesus calls the man a "foreigner," He identifies him as an outsider and not of the Sinai Covenant; the man is one who is outside the covenant like a Gentile. Jesus judges the man's cry of gratitude and glorifying God as evidence of his conversion and tells him: "stand up and go; your faith has saved you." This is the fourth time in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus has used this phrase to conclude a healing (the sinful woman in 7:50; the bleeding woman in 8:48; and He will use it for the blind beggar in 18:42). He will use the phrase four times in Luke's Gospel. It is ironic that it is a man who is not of the covenant who returns in gratitude to give thanks to God and the Jewish lepers did not. It is a sign of future events concerning Jesus and the Jews.

The Jews who accepted the gift of healing without expressing their gratitude have missed out one the most extraordinary moments of their lives as will their covenant brothers who reject the Messiah and His works! The lesson for us is that we must guard against being like the ungrateful nine lepers who accepted the work of God in their lives and then abandoned Him in continuing their secular lives. We must strive to be like Naaman the Syrian, to be like the one leper who returned and to follow the example of the Virgin Mary who demonstrated her gratefulness to God through her obedience and faith. We must be grateful for God's gifts, and we must daily turn back to Him in repentance and gratitude. The Christian walk is one of constant repentance and conversion in seeking out our Lord and Savior and in giving thanks to Him in the celebration of the Eucharist: The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all "thanksgiving" (CCC 1660). We all want to hear those words of Jesus to the one grateful leper on the day of our judgment before the throne of God: "stand up and go; your faith has saved you."

Catechism References:
2 Kings 5:17 (CCC 2099-2100)
Psalm 98:1-4 (CCC 2097)
2 Timothy 2:8 (CCC 437), 2:11-13 (CCC 2641), 2:11 (CCC 1010)
Luke 17:14 (CCC 586)

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2013 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.