11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The world in front of the text has two dimensions: the response of the reader who encounters the text, and the Church’s history of interpretations and use of the text.

Questions for the teacher

Please reflect on these questions before reading this section and then use the material below to enrich your responsiveness to the text.

Meaning for today/challenges

Where am I in this story? Am I with the nine, doing all the socially and religiously correct things but without recognising God’s power and mercy in my life? Or am I like the Samaritan, realising the presence of a saving God in my life? Do I take my health, freedom and opportunity for granted? Am I grateful to God for the good things in my life?

Who are the ‘Samaritans’ in Australia today? Our First Peoples? Refugees? Does it depend from where and how they come – by sea but not by plane? Muslims? Jews? Am I open to the potential of people on the margin? Do I stereotype ‘outsiders’? Do I act as a restorer and healer, making people whole again?

Church interpretation & usage

The text traditionally has been the one used most in catechesis and preaching to focus on gratitude and the necessity of saying thanks. Other aspects that have been stressed are God’s mercy and the importance of faith for salvation. Emphases on the miracle as a sign of the Kingdom and on Jesus’ preference for the marginalised are more recent and reflect the influence of biblical studies and Catholic social teaching.

The text is the Gospel for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year C. The First Reading that day is 2 Kgs 5: 14-17 (the healing of Naaman, the Gentile leper). The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 97: 1-4) sings of God’s salvation to all nations. The text also is the Gospel of the Mass on Thanksgiving Day in the USA and Canada.

In 2015 Pope Francis presented a vision of a merciful Church to a group of new cardinals in a homily based on Jesus’ healing of a leper. He was not using this text but Mark’s account of the healing of an individual leper, but his point remains the same. He emphasised how Jesus reinstates the marginalised and said that the Church’s way must the way of mercy and reinstatement. The Church must leave her four walls behind and go out in search for those who are distant. He urges the cardinals to see the Lord present in every excluded person even in those who have lost their faith or who say they are atheists. The Gospel of the marginalised is where our credibility is at stake. These ideas are central to his pontificate. He declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy (2015-16) for “Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 1) and “mercy … is the name of God”.

In another homily, for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C) in 2016, Pope Francis stated:

Significantly, Naaman and the Samaritans were two foreigners. How many foreigners, including persons of other religions, give us an example of values that we sometimes forget or set aside! Those living beside us, who may be scorned and sidelined because they are foreigners, can instead teach us how to walk on the path that the Lord wishes.