Our Lord Jesus Christ is crossing the land of Samaria when He meets 10 lepers. They are considered as impure, and as such, are excluded from the society. In addition to the pain caused by their illness, they have to suffer the gaze of others, and certain contempt, or at least, just a certain disregard. For the people in good standing, it is of course not a problem. They are not concerned by these 10 lepers. They have food every day and a roof for their family and they give thanks to God for this. They follow the Law given by the Almighty to Moses but they don’t see further. Jesus knows this and tries to explain to them.
Today’s gospel starts with verse 11 of chapter 17 of Saint Luke. Remember the preceding verses. Our Lord gives a lesson to his disciples who ask Him to increase their faith.
"Which of you, having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say to him, when he is come from the field: Immediately go. Sit down to meat. And will not rather say to him: Make ready my supper and gird thyself and serve me, whilst I eat and drink; and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant for doing the things which he commanded him? I think not. So you also, when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do. " Luke 17:7-10
The Fathers of the Church explain that faith is of course necessary and good but can also be an occasion of pride. For that reason, Jesus warns us: We are unprofitable servants!
After this comes the meeting of Our Lord with the 10 lepers. They all have faith and their faith pushes them to invoke Jesus. Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! These men rejected by society hope that Jesus will accept them. Their hope will not be deceived: "Go, show yourselves to the priests. As they went, they were made clean." It is also a lesson for the priests, jealous of the glory of Jesus. They have now another proof of His power. May the priests of the New Covenant understand that their power comes from God and must be used for His glory and only His glory.
The 10 lepers can now see the efficacy of the name of Jesus that they have invoked. This name means Savior. They have been cleansed for having invoked it. But only one of ten comes back to give thanks, and this was a Samaritan. Ingratitude seems to be disgraceful and detestable, and it truly is. Nevertheless it is common, even among those who are expected to be good people. The only one who comes back to Jesus is a Samaritan. The nine others are Jews. But who is the most faithful keeper of the Law?
What about myself? I can easily fall in a certain routine of Christian life. I have everything that I need in order to have a decent life and I have even more, which gives me a comfortable life. I am certainly not a bad Christian since I attend Mass every Sunday and even sometimes during the week. I confess my sins regularly and I pray almost every day.
Well, it is true that I am certainly not a bad Christian, but Our Lord wants more than this. He does not say: Do not be bad, but rather be perfect! It happens that God tries to wake us and to revive our spiritual life. He allows us to face some trials. It is an occasion for us to pray more, because, as the lepers, when things are not so good, we try to find a refuge and some consolations. So we claim that we are miserable and we beg God for His mercy. But then, once we have received what we had asked, we may be tempted to think that it was due to us and to forget to come back to give thanks. We deplore and condemn the ingratitude of the nine lepers but we do not realize how much we can be ourselves ungrateful. And sometimes a ‘Samaritan’ comes to remind us that we should be grateful.
It happened to me, at least once, and I will never forget this lesson. Almost 20 years ago, I was at the military school of Artillery in Draguignan, south of France. After the classes, I was accepted as an officer which was the dream of my youth. My roommate was a good friend, but he was a protestant. We often had long discussion about Faith. I brought him once at the Latin Mass and he brought me once to a protestant service, which of course I did not participate, but it was an occasion for me to meet some protestant people.
The day when we received our stripe of officer, a family from the protestant church came to the ceremony. We all were rejoicing. Then this protestant lady asked me: “Did you thank God for that?” Well, I have to say that I was confused, because I did not. I rejoiced with my family and my friend but I simply forgot God. There was one person to remind me of the most important thing and this person was a protestant.
Sometimes, God sends to us a ‘Samaritan’ to bring us back on the right way. May Our Lady help us to accept the lesson and to revive our Faith and our Charity, so that we can hear Our Lord saying to us: "Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole."