Worship God Alone 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Worship God Alone 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

2 Kings 5:14-17 Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4 2 Timothy 2:8-13 Luke 17:11-19

            In today’s gospel passage, Jesus heals ten lepers. Of the ten healed lepers, only one returns to thank Jesus. The leper who thanks Jesus is a Samaritan. When the Samaritan returns to thank Jesus, the leper falls down to the ground near the feet of Jesus and thanks Jesus. The original Greek passage literally states that the Samaritan “fell on his face at the feet”[1] of Jesus.

         At the time of Jesus, explains the Biblical scholar Brant Pitre, both the Jewish people, and the Samaritans, who are in a sense half Israelite, associated the action of falling down on one’s face as an action only proper to do before God.[2]

         For this reason, adds Pitre, when the Centurion Cornelius fell at the St. Peter’s feet, Peter commanded Cornelius to “Stand up; I am only a mortal (Acts 10:26 RSVCE).” 

Similarly, when the Apostle John in the book of Revelation is recorded as falling “down to worship at the feet (Revelation 22:8 RSVCE)” of an angel, the angel also commands Paul “You must not do that! (Revelation 22:8 RSVCE)” Why did the angel command Paul not to kneel before him? The reason is because an angel is not God. Only before God may we to fall down on our knees in worship. If Peter did not correct Cornelius and if the angel did not correct John, Peter and angel would have sinned, and perhaps seriously by way of omission by sinning against the First Commandment, “I am the Lord your God you shall not have false Gods before you.”[3]

         Notice that Jesus does not correct the healed leper when the leper falls down on his face before Jesus in worship. Unlike Peter, unlike the angel, Pitre points out, Jesus does not correct the leper and command him to rise. Jesus does not tell the leper, “Get up immediately. Do not kneel before me. Kneel only before God.” Jesus did not correct the leper by telling the leper to rise because Jesus is God. Jesus is God who has fully assumed our human nature. Worshipping Jesus is proper because worshipping Jesus is worshipping God through Jesus’ human nature.[4]

         Another way, Pitre points out, that Jesus affirms his divinity is by how Jesus heals the lepers. Unlike Elisha who healed only one leper, Naaman the Syrian, Jesus heals ten lepers. Unlike Elisha who healed the leper by commanding the leper to wash seven times in the Jordan River, Jesus simply commands the ten lepers to show themselves before priests and if they obey Jesus’ command by presenting themselves before the priests they will be healed.[5]

Like the ten lepers we also desire to be healed from something. May we desire to be healed not simply from a physical illness but also from any spiritual illness we suffer from. We all suffer from one spiritual illness or another. For this reason, we may see ourselves as spiritual lepers in need of Jesus’ healing touch.

I am constantly reminded of my interior spiritual leprosy due to blessing of God that is in the form of a physical disease I have that would have been classified as leprosy in the time of Jesus. Due to medication the disease is under control, but it is not possible to heal it completely. Providentially, the illness constantly reminds me of a much more serious illness, the illness of the soul that no medicine in the world can heal me from, only Jesus can. A sacramental way to experience the healing touch of Jesus, His mercy is by showing myself before a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and on my knees asking for forgiveness, asking for the mercy of Jesus.

Like the Samaritan leper, today may we go and show ourselves to a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and experience healing individually and communally as a people knit together as one Body of Christ, the Church. Through the celebration of the Mass may we then thank God on our knees for his mercy.

God Bless,

Fr Peter

James Tissot [Public domain], “James Tissot – The Healing of Ten Lepers (Guérison de dix lépreux) – Brooklyn Museum,” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Healing_of_Ten_Lepers_(Gu%C3%A9rison_de_dix_l%C3%A9preux)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall.jpg

[1] “ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον παρὰ τοὺς αὐτοῦ” biblehub.com, https://biblehub.com/greek/proso_pon_4383.htm.

[2] Brant Pitre, “The Twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C),” catholicproductions.com. 

[3] Brant Pitre, “The Twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C),” catholicproductions.com. 

[4] Brant Pitre, “The Twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C),” catholicproductions.com. 

[5] Brant Pitre, “The Twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C),” catholicproductions.com. 

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