The Lord’s Day Reflection: “Mercy along the journey”
By Fr Edmund Power, OSB
On the way to Jerusalem: several times in Luke’s Gospel, we meet phrases like this. They are not merely circumstantial details to make the narrative more vivid.
For Luke, the ministry of Jesus is conducted in the context of the great journey to his destiny. Each of us, willy-nilly, is on the road, measured in weeks and years rather than miles and kilometres.
How is your journey going?
This Sunday’s Gospel is the uniquely Lucan healing of the ten lepers.
Jesus, on the move as always, is met by a strange little group, isolated and inspiring fear. It is an exclusive community though not of its own volition: the condition for membership is incurable and infectious disease. However, it is more inclusive than the broader society within which it forms an island of suffering, because it apparently has no hang-ups about ethnic or religious differences.
Once again, we see how Luke, companion of Paul, demonstrates that the Gospel is for all.
It is curious that the solidarity of suffering, that renders cultural-religious differences trivial, starts to break down after the lepers are healed: the nine Jews return to the expectations of the Law. The Samaritan does not. On his heart is written a deeper law than the approval of priests: wonder, praise and gratitude well up in his heart when he realizes that he has been touched by the love and mercy of God.
What suffering do we carry?
Leprosy today, for those fortunate enough to have access to modern medicine, has been largely overcome. So how may we embrace the word of life in this Sunday’s Gospel?
There are indirect messages, already mentioned, about what suffering can do and about openness to the person who is different.
But what might the leprosy betoken for those of us on the journey to Jerusalem? Disfigurement, exclusion, pain, hopelessness?
In this miracle of Jesus, we see the healing of a community in response to a shared cry for mercy.
Rise and go your way, says Jesus, your faith has made you well. He is in fact speaking to the Samaritan, although all ten were healed.
The ‘go your way’ can carry the sense of “continue your journey”. Previously halted by leprosy, the man sets off again for his personal Jerusalem, a city now bright with the glory of God in Jesus. Your faith need only be as small as a mustard seed (cf. Lk 13:19).
What ‘leprosy’ afflicts us?
The word translated as Master (Master, have mercy on us!) is “epistata” in the Greek original.
This word is used several times in Luke, but not in the other Gospels. It represents an attitude of respect, but has not yet reached the level of faith implied by the word “Lord” (in Greek “kyrios”).
The faith of the ten is at a preliminary and cautious stage, but it suffices.
Humbly and honestly aware of the metaphorical leprosy that afflicts each one of us, encouraged by the fact that our hesitant faith is nonetheless welcomed by the Lord, and willing always to open our hearts to the spirit of praise and thanks, we are ready to continue our journey, on the way to Jerusalem.