The reading for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary time is drawn from Luke 17:11-19. This story of Jesus healing ten lepers has no parallel in any other Gospel, though the synoptic Gospels do contain a separate account of the healing of a single leper.
And what is note-worthy about Luke 17? First, Christ heals ten lepers. The lepers meet Jesus outside the village because Mosaic Law, which deemed leprosy unclean and/or highly contagious, prohibited them from residing in a town. The healing is also implicit, since Jesus neither prays nor performs any ritual. He simply says “present yourselves before the priests.” Luke’s purpose is not demonstrate how Jesus performed the miracle. We accept at face value that the lepers were healed at the exercise of the will of Jesus.
Secondly, it is not the objective of the story to persuade a crowd of the power of Jesus. On the contrary, he performs the miracle rather anonymously. And even then, nine of the ten men he cured fail to thank him. There is further irony in that the only leper to thank him is not even a Temple-worshiping Jew. He is a Samaritan – a Semite from northern Israel who would normally not make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Jewish Passover.
This passage is about a faith encounter between the Son of God and a man healed as a result of his faith in Jesus. The leper’s decision to fall “at the feet of Jesus” is our earliest example of the adoration of God-become-man. It is a textual example of man’s duty to give thanks to God, and Luke demonstrates that it is not wrong to express this gratitude directly to Jesus, even if it means we ought to “fall at his feet.”
Finally, the leper in this story is by no means an exception. The leper sets the standard for all people of faith. Just as Jesus healed the leper, and just as the leper thanked Jesus, we should do the same. Would that we were all as sure and humble to show our gratitude to God as the leper.
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”