28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

MERCY AND GRATITUDE

By Maria di Paolo

This weekend the readings are about healing and purification.  How is God’s mercy and forgiveness manifest?  What are our reactions on receiving this amazing grace?

Namaan, a Syrian general and an enemy of Israel, has a bothersome skin condition.  He hears, from a servant, about the healing powers of an Israelite prophet, Elisha, and he goes to him to be cured.  However, Elisha refuses to meet Namaan in person and instructs a messenger to tell him to go to the river Jordan and immerse himself seven times.  At first, Namaan, is angry, but his servants convince him to try – he has nothing to lose.  Namaan does as he is instructed, he is cured and experiences a profound conversion.

Jesus meets ten lepers on the road.  They ask him for mercy.  He in turn instructs them to go to see a priest and they are healed.  Only one returns, gives praise to God, and thanks Jesus.

In the Bible, physical ailments, especially obviously disfiguring ones, such as leprosy, were considered manifestations of sin and interior troubles.  What Namann and the lepers experience is not a superficial return to physical purity but is symbolic of a deep spiritual healing.

It is interesting that both Elisha and Jesus are God’s agents: they do not “do” the curing themselves.  There is no magic here.  Without conversion to God, neither Namaan nor the lepers would be healed.

It is easy to criticize the nine lepers who do not return to Jesus to give thanks: do they take God’s mercy for granted?  When we receive forgiveness, what is our reaction?  Do we experience conversion, or do we take the mercy of those we have sinned against, and God’s mercy, for granted?