Foreign Worship

This Sunday’s Gospel highlights the centrality of worship, thanksgiving to the glory of God! But it does so, like so much of Jesus’ teaching with a challenge. Jesus is travelling through Samaria and Galilee, zones that are ‘outside,’ and a group of ten lepers encounter him. They ask for pity from “Jesus, Master!” and he sends them on their way to priests during which time they are healed.

One returns, glorifying God and falls at Jesus’ feet thanking him. He’s a Samaritan. Remember the one who stops for the man left for dead by the side of the road (Luke 10)?

Jesus says:

“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”

Jesus contrasts the faith and gratitude of the foreigner with the lack of both from locals. This story recalls the reading from 2 Kings 5 where Naaman the Syrian King was cleansed of his leprosy by the prophet Elisha. “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth,
except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel Jesus makes his own commentary on this story from Kings – right before being thrown off a cliff. Well, they tried anyway. Not only is a prophet not welcome in his own country but throughout Luke’s Gospel we are constantly being brought back to the theme of the inclusion of the Gentiles, the foreigners, the poor, the vulnerable.

As we begin this Life & Dignity Month of October, may we remember that it is often those to whom we are wrestling to respond or to care for that are already praising God and demonstrating the love of neighbor. What a surprise! In fact, Jesus says to us in today’s readings, look how they love one another! Look how they give thanks!

May God give us eyes to see and ears to hear how, even in the midst of a culture that often seems ruled by death and money and sex and power, the Spirit of God is at work to bring the Kingdom of God closer, to increase that sense of kinship that makes solidarity possible.

While we are busy with the either/or’s and trying to decide who is more worthy of our attention or accompaniment, Jesus draws our attention to this foreign leper and says: now that is how you praise God! The both/and of the Gospel cuts across the cultural and political grain but it reflects the heart of God for all people. May we go and do likewise and celebrate and witness the life of God with and to all those that cross our paths.

 

In solidarity,

Greg Walgenbach

Director, Office of Life, Justice & Peace