HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
HOMILY THEME: THE LIGHT OF TRUTH AND JOY.
BY: Fr. Jude Nnadi
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY
2 Kings 5: 14-17; 2 Timothy 2, 8-13; Luke 17, 11-19
“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. 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. I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the LORD.” (2 Kings 5).
“As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” and when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going, they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has non but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Lk 17).
Sisters and brothers, our liturgy today presents us with two foreign characters. The first is a high official from Syria, Naaman, whose story is not only that of a healing – but also of conversion and “baptism”. It will be interesting to re-read in full the chapter (5) of the account of the Second Book of Kings – the story of a humiliation that brings a stranger to the light of truth and joy. In the search for healing, he must pass from the king of Israel to whom he had turned to be freed from leprosy to the prophet Elisha, who, without receiving him communicates what he must do through his messenger. Naaman from his highly stratified dignity as chief of staff of the Syrian army humbles himself before a messenger. He must descend from the marvelous rivers of Damascus, “the Abana and the Pharpar”, to the narrow Jordan River; not just for a simple immersion but seven times as Elisha directed him through his messenger, an act that seems irrational and stupid!
Yet it is on this path of humiliation that Naaman not only gets healing but also encounters salvation. In fact, the apex of the narrative is in that final profession of faith: “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” Naaman is now a citizen of the people of God, Israel, the land where God revealed himself. This victory of the saving power of God regardless of tribe, race, tongue, nation, sex and social standing is visible in the one narrated by Luke alone in the gospel.
The protagonist here too is a man who, despite having carnal and territorial ties with Israel, was considered a stranger and an enemy, that is, the Samaritan. Like Naaman he is not only a stranger but also a leper; in him, therefore, the essence of marginalization and poverty is condensed, he is truly in every sense “different”, “dead”, “alone”. To understand the wall of contempt that surrounds him as a Samaritan, it is enough to evoke this very harsh text of Sirach, a biblical scholar of the second century. BC: “The stupid people who live in Samaria are not even a people” (50, 25-26). And to understand his bitterness as a leper it is enough to evoke the pages of Leviticus (cc. 13-14) in which leprosy is seen as a sign of an unforgiveable sin and therefore the root of excommunication and condemnation.
Even the story of Luke’s anonymous leper is not just that of a cure but a process of conversion and salvation. All ten lepers, after the encounter with Jesus, were healed. Only to the leper Samaritan does Jesus declare in the final: “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you”. All were healed, but only one was saved.
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The Samaritan is saved based on his faith, pure praise, on his return (conversion) not towards a healer but towards Christ the Savior. The attention with which Luke paints the gestures that make the Samaritan a portrait of a perfect believer in adoration before his Lord is very significant: “he returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.”
We who are healthy, proud of living in a peaceful environment with series of protections and insurances, satisfied in our comfortable homes, find ourselves quietly in our beautiful churches on Sundays and weekdays, must not forget those two provocative phrases of Jesus: “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you did to me… They will come from east and west to sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven; while the children of the Kingdom will be thrown away” (Mt 25,40; 8, 11-12).
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