The blog is slightly behind, but we are going to catch up this week. Do you remember the gospel of three weeks ago? The Healing of the Ten Lepers. Here is our take…
Three Sundays ago (yes, we got behind) we proclaimed the gospel of the healing of the ten lepers, one of those stories we know well. Any interpretation of the gospel should not obviate that it is a story about thankfulness, as a Christian value that we have to embrace, not as a gesture but as a way of life. But there is much more in the story, more challenges that we need to uncover.
As we know well, lepers were considered impure by the Law. They lived outside of towns, outside of society, they were the truly marginalized in Jesus’ time. In the passage, they cry out for Jesus to heal them. Jesus asks them to present themselves to the priests—the individuals in charge of the Temple, following what the Law prescribed so a healing could be “certified” before the individual could re-enter society (Leviticus 13:16-17). Interestingly enough, apparently the lepers have no problem in going back to the institution that has marginalized them in the first place.
As we know well, only one goes back to Jesus—a Samaritan, and we know also about the animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans, who were also considered impure. Some scholars interpret that the Samaritan does not go to the priest simply because he can’t. The Jewish laws of purification did not apply to them. He is a foreigner, the Temple does not mean anything to him. Only the person who has experienced double discrimination—as a Samaritan and as a leper—the person who is still an outsider after the healing, finds it in himself to go back to express his thankfulness to the one who has healed him.
Jesus not only calls us to care deeply for the marginalized, but also he calls us to be people of the margins. It is two different calls—and we may have trouble distinguishing between them. I believe the call in today’s gospel is the latter, to be people of the margins. Pope Francis famously called us to live and find our purpose on the peripheries of society—where the truly marginalized are.
The reflection becomes a question that we have to answer in levels: What does it mean for us individually to be a person of the margins? But also, what does it mean for our Faith Community to be a community of the margins? And what does it mean for us as Church to be a church of the margins?