Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we heard last week Jesus wants nothing more than to kindle our faith a little each day so that the small seed grows into a huge tree that gives shade to many. It is a beautiful image of the Church, and of a Christian.
Why didn’t Jesus say to the lepers: “Be clean,” as he had done on other occasions, and the miracle would have been done? Maybe the ten lepers had to be a witness to the priests that they were sent to verify their cure (Luke 17: 11-19). Or maybe Christ wanted to see them make an act of faith, which they did when they went to see the priest. They could have said, forget about it, this guy is nuts. Or maybe he wanted to see their reaction after the cure when they had the freedom to just go away or return to him.
The point of the gospel, I sense, is that this man who returned, found Christ. He gained eternal life. The other nine missed the greatest moment of their lives. Nine went to find the priest but one became a priest; he offered thanks to God. I hope we do so an every Mass we attend. This man found Christ and his life was totally changed.
The translation we heard today says this man realized he was healed. Others say more precisely that ‘he saw’ that he was cured. He had eyes of faith that helped him to see what Christ had done for him. He saw, and understood, and turned to Christ. He converted; he turned around, his life was no longer the same. Imagine someone who is smelly and whose face and skin is damaged by this disease and then suddenly everything is restored, wow!
Then what does he do? He fell on his face in front of the feet of Christ. He knew who Christ was. He prostrated himself. This man was of ‘another race,’ a foreigner, an immigrant we could say today. Perhaps even Jesus did not expect this from him.
Naaman, the Syrian commander, also did not expect the Jordan River would cure his skin disease. But he humbled himself, thanks to his servants who encouraged him to obey what the prophet told him. He went down, physically and spiritually, to the Jordan and entered it seven times and his flesh was like that of a child. Jesus said to enter the Kingdom I must become simple, like a child.
Naaman returned to Elisha, a twenty mile trip, and offered a huge amount of gifts. Elisha refused them. What we heard today is that Naaman took two mule-loads of earth back to his country so that he could worship only the God of Israel on his soil. It is a beautiful act of gratitude.
Christ was on his way to Jerusalem when this event occurred. He was on his way to Calvary. Who knows what happened to the Samaritan who was cleansed of his leprosy, which is always a sign of sin in the Bible. Perhaps he became a disciple and followed Christ to Jerusalem. His life was saved, and completely changed; I don’t think he went back to what he was doing before. Neither should we when we have an experience of eternal life, an experience of Jesus Christ.