The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 9th October 2022
Lectionary Readings: 2 Kings 5:14-17; Psalm 98:1-4; 2 Tim. 2:8-13; Lk.17:11-19
Theme: The LORD…has shown his deliverance to the nations
How do we relate to those who are ‘not like us’, to those who are beyond our immediate circle, family, nation, race, religion, perhaps those whom we might consider our ‘enemies’? This is a theme running through our readings today, beginning with the story in The Second Book of Kings of the cure of the leper Naaman by the prophet Elisha, successor to Elijah. Naaman is the highest-ranking military officer in the army of the King of Aram, enemy of the King of Israel. Elisha’s reputation as a miracle-worker has crossed the border between the two kingdoms by chance, through a young Israelite girl, taken as a prisoner-of-war by the Aramaeans on one of their raids into Israel. This leads to the King of Aram ordering the King of Israel to make Elisha cure Naaman. After his healing, Naaman wishes to ensure that the God who helped cure him would remain near him – hence the request to take two mule-loads of Israelite earth to Damascus in order to be able to sacrifice to the LORD there. This is an early splendid earthbound understanding of God, still far removed from the later, theoretical understanding of monotheism in, for example Isaiah: “I am the LORD, unrivalled;/there is no other God besides me…. from the rising to the setting of the sun … apart from me, all is nothing” (Isaiah 45:5-6). Elisha understands Naaman’s request and grants it immediately, parting from him in peace.
The story of Jesus’ cure of the ten men in Luke’s Gospel today is linked not only to the story of Naaman in that these men also suffered from leprosy, but also because the shock of the story lies in the simple phrase that the one who returned “was a Samaritan”. At the time of Jesus, bitter hatred had long existed between Jews and Samaritans, even though they shared the Torah and both revered Moses. Like most deep-seated hatreds, the origin of the differences had long been buried under almost four centuries of violence and resentment. The Samaritans rejected the notion of the royal line of David and resisted the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian exile. Their place of worship was not Jerusalem, but Mount Gerizim. John’s Gospel also reflects this hatred between Jews and Samaritans in the surprise of the Samaritan woman that Jesus would ask her for a drink of water (John 4:9), and the accusation by Jesus’ opponents that he is “a Samaritan and possessed by a devil” (John 8:48). The great shock of today’s gospel is that the one who returns “glorifying God in a loud voice” and who gives thanks to God is a Samaritan whom Jesus calls “a foreigner” (the Greek literally means a person of a different kind or nature). This positive Lukan view of the Samaritan should be joined with the other major Samaritan story, the parable of the Good Samaritan. These two Samaritan stories provide an arch from the initial stages of Jesus’ long journey to Jerusalem to near its conclusion. Taken together, the two narratives speak of two individuals who lived out the greatest commandments: to love God with one’s whole heart and soul and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
Although Psalm 98 speaks of God’s special relationship with God’s people Israel, a relationship bound on both sides by covenant – “He has remembered His truth and love/for the house of Israel” – like other psalms celebrating God’s sovereignty, the perspective is global, for the Eternal One’s reign extends over all the earth: “All the ends of the earth have seen/the salvation of our God”. Not just Israel, but all nations, as well as the whole of creation, are called to praise God: “Let the sea and all within it, thunder; /the world, and all its peoples”.
This, too, is what drove Paul to take the message of Christ to the gentiles and, through them, to all nations. The passage from the Second Letter to Timothy today represents a summary of this message: Jesus Christ, Son of David, both human and of royal descent, having suffered, is risen from the dead. Preaching this message has put Paul in chains, but nothing diminishes his enthusiasm for spreading the gospel of the “salvation that is in Christ Jesus”.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Who are the ‘Samaritans’ in your life? What are you doing to break down barriers that separate you from all of God’s people?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Margareth Shepherd NDS, England, Bat Kol contributor.