BELIEF WITHOUT THANKSGIVING
This story starts out recounting the healing of a group of ten lepers near Samaria. But this time, Luke doesn’t stop to detail the healing, but zeroes in on the reaction of one of the lepers when he finds himself cured. The gospel writer carefully describes his whole journey, since he wants to shake the routine-plagued faith of not a few Christians.
Jesus has asked the lepers to present themselves to the priests to get the clearance that allows them back into society. But one of them, a Samaritan, when he realizes he’s been cured, instead of going to the priests, returns to seek out Jesus. He feels that a new life has begun for him. From now on, everything will be different: he will be able to live a more dignified and happy life. He knows who’s responsible. He needs to get together with Jesus.
He returns «praising God at the top of his voice». He knows that the saving power of Jesus can only come from God. He now feels something new for that Good Father whom Jesus has talked about. He’ll never forget it. From now on he’ll live a life of thanking God. He’ll praise God shouting at the top of his voice. Everyone must know that he feels himself loved by God.
When he meets Jesus, «he threw himself prostrate at his feet and thanked him». His companions have gone on their way to meet with the priests, but this one knows that Jesus is his only Savior. That’s why he’s here next to him giving thanks. In Jesus he’s found God’s best gift.
At the end of this story, Jesus speaks out and asks three questions that express his surprise and his sadness at what’s happened. They aren’t directed to the Samaritan who’s there at his feet. They sum up the message that Luke wants the Christian communities to hear.
«Were not all ten made clean?». Weren’t they all cured? Why don’t they realize what they’ve received from Jesus? «The other nine, where are they?». Why aren’t they here? Why do so many Christian live hardly ever giving thanks to God? Why don’t they feel a special appreciation toward Jesus? Don’t they know him? Doesn’t he mean something new for them?
«No one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner?». Why is it that some who have left their religious practice feel a true admiration and appreciation toward Jesus, while some Christians feel nothing special for him? A few years ago Pope Benedict warned that an agnostic who’s seeking can be closer to God than a routine-plagued Christian who’s just there for tradition or heritage. A faith that doesn’t generate joy and thanksgiving in believers is a faith that is sick.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf