Gospel according to Luke (17:11-19)
AS JESUS continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. 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 hot? 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.”
I know of one missionary sister who worked with katutubo for years. She not only lived with them but also helped build communities. She put up a school that served as a culture base. She actively engaged with them, such that she became fluent in their language and considered by many as learned in their culture. She also proclaimed our Faith, yet the katutubo community was not ready for it; nonetheless she continued proclaiming in a discreet manner. When she was about to leave the area, one leader approached and begged her to stay. He confided to her that he is now ready to embrace the Faith after a personal encounter with the Lord whom she worshipped. He testified to her that her God is indeed powerful.
In the First Reading, Naaman was cured even though he was not a believer, After he was healed, he returned to Elisha and worshipped the prophet’s God. This was the same reaction of the Samaritan whom Jesus had healed, thus earning the praise of the Lord. In times of need, we Filipino believers also search for the powerful. When someone is sick, we look for the best manggagamot, when we construct houses, we look for the best feng shui master. When these is spirit possession, we look for the best albularyo; others, when they are in a disadvantaged state, they look for the best mangkukulam. But our readings today remind us that our God suffices and we do not need to look for others because he is already powerful. Our God surpasses the gods of Naaman and the leprous foreigner. The katutubo also recognizes this God as powerful.
Like Naaman and the foreigner who knew our God from a distance, the katutubo leader also learned about Jesus by listening to the stories and homilies of the missionaries, outside of the place of worship. Despite being not part of God’s fold, God treated these “outsiders” like his children. And this led them to recognize him as their God too. This encounter reminds us that our God is not only powerful but also inclusive. He does not only love those who are in his fold. He also loves even those who are not his.
This same God is also a God who is faithful. St. Paul, in the Second Reading, says, “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself.” This Statement seems to be in contradiction to God, whom we consider powerful because power is almost always associated with control and manipulation. In the case of our God, he is powerful yet faithful. He does not need to control and manipulate his fold. He lets each one enjoy life even if others become unfaithful And this makes him all the more powerful.
Therefore we are so blessed to have a God whose love is inclusive, who remains faithful even to the unfaithful. Without laying down severe conditions, he merely waits at our readiness to return and accept him as our God. – Fr. Ross Heruela, SVD