Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel
October 8, 2022 // Perspective

God’s Mercy for All

Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 17:11-19

The Second Book of Kings furnishes this weekend’s first Scriptural reading at Mass. The two books of Kings were once a single volume, but time passed and editors divided the volume into two parts.

They are among the Old Testament’s historical writings. While they are interested in the careers of the early kings of Israel, as the name implies, none of the Old Testament is primarily about history in and of itself.

Instead, the Old Testament books are concerned with religion, and more precisely with the relationship between God and all the Hebrew people. In the view of the ancients, the most important question in life was how to live in faithfulness to God. Nothing else mattered.

So, while the kings are prominent in these books, religious figures are also much in evidence.

This weekend’s reading is an example. The central personality is not a king, but rather it is Naaman. Two strikes are against Naaman. He is a Gentile and he is a leper. It was much more than a coincidence of birth, religious choice, or bad health. Each circumstance smacked of estrangement from God. Leprosy was seen as punishment for sin.

Naaman was cured by bathing in the Jordan River. The Jordan formed an actual border between the Promised Land, home of the devout, and the foreign world, filled with treachery and death and peopled by unbelievers. Crossing the Jordan symbolized and was entry into the land of God’s chosen people.

After being cured, Naaman went to thank God, represented by the prophet Elisha. It is a story then of divine mercy and of recognizing God’s power and mercy.

The Second Epistle to Timothy is the next reading. The epistle reassured and challenged Timothy, an early convert to Christianity, disciple of Paul, and bishop. Anyone who truly dies with Christ by dying to sin receives everlasting life with God.

St. Luke’s Gospel provides the last reading. Leprosy occurs throughout the Scriptures. What was it in today’s clinical sense? It obviously was chronic then and without any known cure. Modern medicine has an answer. Then, it was a fearful fate.

Unaware of most of the workings of disease, ancient Jews saw a curse from God in leprosy. Somehow, somewhere, the leper had disobeyed God.

Fearing contagion, communities forced lepers to live apart. Isolated and spurned, lepers were forced to live lives of want to the point of starvation.

This reading also has an ethnic component. Jews scorned Samaritans since Samaritans long ago tolerated pagan invaders and intermarried with the pagans, producing offspring not purely Hebrew, thereby blurring the identity of the chosen people. Jews thought that Samaritans were the worst of the worst, incapable of anything good.

Amid this, Jesus healed and forgave. His actions were works of the merciful God. He was God.


It is impossible today to imagine the amazement of people when they heard Jesus speak kindly of lepers or of Samaritans, who in popular opinion were irredeemable sinners shunned by God. This is critical for understanding the readings.

Presumably Jews, nine of the lepers cured in this story from St. Luke’s Gospel saw themselves as being entitled to God’s mercy and forgiveness.

The 10th leper was different. An unworthy Samaritan, he nevertheless realized that God’s mercy had come to him. He gave thanks to Jesus, whom the leper understood to be the bearer of divine mercy.

By sinning, we all have deserted God. We all are lepers and Samaritans. We deserve nothing, yet with unending love, God cures us of the weakening effects of our sin, restores us to life, and welcomes us into the fold of those loyal to Him.

The key is our own humility and recognition of our need for God.

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