October 9 2016 (C) Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

B. Reflection & Dialogue: God’s word can not be fettered; it lasts forever. Thankfulness.

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

First Reading (2 Kings 5:14-17). Naaman returned to Elisha and acknowledged the Lord. This little gem is chosen to go with the Gospel reading. It is best understood in its fuller biblical context (2 Kings 5:1-19). Naaman was a very highly respected commander of the army of the Syrian king. In one of their forays into Israel

the Syrians took captive a young Jewish girl. She became a servant to Naaman’s wife but remained faithful to her faith in the Lord God of Israel. She told her mistress that the prophet Elisha could cure Naaman of his leprosy, and Naaman approached the king who sent a delegation to the king of Israel, with a formal letter and large sums of money to cure Naaman of his leprosy. The king got alarmed, believing that it was a ruse to start a Syrian invasion. Elisha intervenes and asks that Naaman come to himself, which Naaman does with his horses and chariots. Elisha tells him to wash seven times in the Jordan river, something which Naaman spurns and goes off in a rage. His servants prevail on him to do as Elisha had said, which he does and in healed. This leads his conversion to the God of Israel as the one true God. He will no longer worship the god of Syria Hadad Rimmon. At that time, however, worship of gods was connected with soil. On the soil of Syria only Hadad could be worshipped, as the Lord God was on the soil of Israel. Elisha refuses any recompense for the miracle, and Naaman requests that he be given a good amount of the earth (soil) of Israel, so that he can worship the God of Israel, not Hadad, in his home country

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 97[98]). The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations.

Second Reading (2 Timothy 2:8-13). If we hold firm, then we shall reign with Christ. As elsewhere in these Pastoral Letters Paul is recalling for Timothy certain headings of Christian doctrine that will be of importance for him, and probably warns his of certain individuals or groups that are denying them or calling them into doubt. First is the resurrection of Christ, and his true humanity, born from the race of David. His Gospel preaching has been a cause of persecution for Paul. Timothy must remember the fundamental truth: “The word of God (the Lectionary and the Jerusalem Bible have “God’s news”.) is not fettered. They cannot chain up God’s news. Paul had said something similar in Philippians 1:12-14. Paul may have been thinking of Isaiah 55:11: the word that goes forth from God’s mouth does not return top him empty, but shall accomplish that which God purposes and prosper in the thing for which he sent it. With this in mind Paul bears the consequemces of his mission, whose aim is to bring the salvation that is in Christ and the eternal glory that come with it. The text ends with five metrical lines, which may have been part of an early Christian hymn, with fundamental truths on God’s fidelity, introduced by a heading we have considered already in the reading for the twenty-fourth Sunday (1 Timothy 1:15)..

The Gospel (Luke 17:11-19. No one came back to give praise to God, except this foreigner. Reflection on this reading will be aided by attention to three elements connected with it, that is its setting in the general plan of Luke’s gospel, the mention of lepers and of the border between Samaria and Galilee. It is set in what is regarded as Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem in Luke 9:51-56. Realizing that his death and glorification were near, Jesus resolutely set his face on Jerusalem, where he would be crucified and glorified, and where the Holy Spirit would come on his followers, to begin the universal Christian mission. Together with this we have the relation of Jews and Samaritans. The Samaritans, lying in Samaria between Jewish Galilee and Judea, were not recognized by the Jews as genuinely Jewish. There was deep bitterness between them. They could make Galileans on their way to Jerusalem unwelcome (Luke 9:51-56; read on 13th Sunday). Jesus countered any racial prejudice in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:22-37, read on 15th Sunday), as the Samaritan was the one (not the Jewish priest or Levite) who understood the command to love one’s neighbour. Then there is the question of lepers and leprosy. The leprosy mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments is not the disease as known today. The term designates rather some form of skin disease, believed contagious. The sufferer was barred from liturgical services, and social life, until declared cured (“clean”) by a Temple priest. This said, we may return to today’s Gospel reading. The scene is situated on the border between Samaria and Galilee. Luke is not interested in geography and does not tell us on which side of the border the incident occurred. The plague of leprosy did not spare Jew or Samaritan. Being lepers they did not, could not, come near to Jesus. Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priests, with implicit promise of healing, which occurred on their way. The only one of the ten to return to thank Jesus was a Samaritan. To thank meant to praise God for what he had done through Jesus. Jesus has again passed beyond the ethnic to recognize the Samaritan’s faith. After the resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the border between Samaria and Galilee, between Samaritan and Jew, between Jew and Gentile, will be no more. The disciples will be witnesses to Jesus and the gospel in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). This reading also shows the importance of thankfulness to God, and to one another. As we pray in the weekly Common Preface IV of the Mass: “For, although you (Lord) have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation, through Christ our Lord”.

B. Reflection & Dialogue: God’s word can not be fettered; it lasts forever. Thankfulness.

Writing to the Romans Paul says: “Whatever was written (in the Scriptures) in former days was written for our instruction, so that by the steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). These words encourage us to reflect weekly on the Sunday readings. We can recall a few of these today. This has already been partly done above when explaining the readings.

1. The word of God lasts forever. We have an example of this in the first reading. The activity of Elisha can be dated to about 850 BC. It provides an example of a prophet of Israel showing kindness and healing to a foreigner, in act to a commanded to the army of the enemy of his people. It was an indication of a message to the Gentiles yet to come. Its message was not lost. Jesus recalled it to his fellow citizens of Nazareth, indicating the spread of the Gospel beyond Israel (Luke 5:27). The word of the Lord can not be fettered. It has a force all its own. This thought should bring steadfastness in the faith and encouragement in our own day. God’s word, God’s dealing with humanity, has a lone history before our day, and will have its future.

2. Thankfulness. The explanation of thr Gospel reading has already attended to this.

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