Going beyond the skin

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe Week XXVIII-C, 13 October 2019

2 Kings 5:14-17 ><}}}*> 2 Timothy 2:8-13 ><}}}*> Luke 17:11-19

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, September 2019.

This Sunday readings tell us about the skin, the healing of people afflicted with the dreaded “Hansen’s disease” or leprosy. Since ancient time, it has always been seen with deeper implications than mere wounds on the skin that scars not only the leper but also the community. At its worst, it is regarded as a divine punishment that lepers have to be separated from others to live in designated areas for their treatment.

Skin plays a major role in our social status and mobility. Being the largest organ of the human body, the skin is always the first to be seen and noticed that whatever its condition would always have a big impact on the person, for better or for worst.

This is specially true for us Filipinos who are so concerned with our skin color that we still regard being white or maputi is maganda (beautiful) and having dark skin or maitim is pangit (ugly). No wonder everybody is going crazy to get whiter skin with all those soaps and creams and medicines advertised on billboards everywhere!

In a very funny twist unknown to most Filipinos who idolise white skin, many of our popular devotions in the Catholic faith actually have dark skin like Quiapo’s Black Nazarene and Our Lady of Antipolo?!

But, that’s another story of how skin-deep we can be…..

Going back to our reflection of today’s readings, Jesus is inviting us to go deeper than the skin to realize the richer meaning of having faith in him.

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 voice, 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.

Luke 17:11-16
View from the walled city of ancient Jerusalem, May 2019.

Since June 30 of this year, the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we have been following Jesus when “he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51). More than a destination to reach, Christ’s journey to Jerusalem is about directions in life because it is spiritual and theological in nature than spatial or geographical.

It is the same truth every pilgrim to the Holy Land realizes too!

And now that Jesus is nearing Jerusalem to fulfill his mission, his teachings are getting clearer and closer to home, indicating also our own “passing over” or pasch with him with the many verbs and movements found in our gospel scene today.

Let’s try reflecting on them one by one. Please bear with me…

“As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem” …. Jesus never stops in his journey to Jerusalem to suffer with us, to cry with us, to die with us. He is committed in being one with us in our many struggles and battles in this life until we make it with him to heaven.

“he travelled through Samaria and Galilee.” This is beautiful. Samaria and Galilee are the regions where the poor and marginalized lived, where sinners abound. But, that is where Jesus would always come. When we are in our darkest moments in life due to sickness, failures and disappointments, especially sin – that is when Jesus comes closest to us! In the first reading, we have heard how God’s Prophet Elisha told the Syrian Army General Naaman to bath in the Jordan River to be healed of his leprosy even if he were a pagan and an enemy of Israel! God loves us all.

“As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.” Keep in mind that Jesus came for the lost like us. Be open and ready for him for he is always passing by. Jesus surely comes to those who patiently wait for him.

“They stood at a distance from him, and raised their voice, 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. This episode of the healing of ten lepers can only be found in St. Luke’s gospel filled with many meaningful expressions. First is how “the lepers stood at a distance from Jesus.” This is our usual stance with the Lord when we are full of sin, so ashamed to look at him. But, it does not really matter with the Lord who looks more into is our hearts full of contrition than into our ego full of pride as we shall hear three weeks from now in the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector (Lk. 18:9-14).

The lepers cried to him, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” and when Jesus saw them, he told them to see the priests and they were cleansed. This is an extraordinary profession of faith in Christ by the ten lepers who were crying out not only for pity but also mercy. There are only three instances in the gospels when Jesus is addressed in his name, once in Matthew and twice in Luke. This is the first and the second is when Dimas the thief called on him saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” To say his name “Jesus” in itself is a prayer, an admission of guilt and sin. That is why, as the ten lepers went their way to the priests, they were “cleansed” like Dimas on the cross was instantly promised with paradise.

“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.”

Here we find every encounter with Jesus in prayer and the sacraments as well as in various events in our life is a passage to salvation and new life. See the transition from being cleansed into being healed: that is something deeper than the skin, so to speak. The Samaritan was not merely cleansed of his skin blemishes but most of all, his soul and inner being that Jesus later told him to “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Sometimes in life, we stop at being cleansed by the Lord; after obtaining our prayers and wishes, we never go back to him until we face another problem again. Are we willing to keep on going back to Jesus to kneel before him and to thank him?

Last Sunday we prayed to Jesus to increase our faith and today like the ten lepers from a distance, we cry out to him as our Master to have pity on us. We always have that gift of faith in us but we have to deepen and cultivate it daily in our prayer life and most especially in the Sunday Eucharist, the highest expression of giving thanks to God.

Let us live in our faith and trust in God’s gift freely given to everyone regardless of who we are. Let us rely in the words of St. Paul that

“if we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”

2 Timothy 2:11-13

A blessed Sunday to everyone!

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