Oct. 13, 2013
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Kings 5:14-17
2 Timothy 2:8-13
Luke 17:11-19

Even today Samaritans are the smallest religious minority in the Holy Land, and historically among the most beleaguered.  Samaritans were hated by the Jews who thought of them as a group who had mixed the worship of the true God with paganism.  Since lepers were also outcasts, the Samaritan leper felt doubly ostracized. We can only imagine how shocking it was that he alone returned to Christ to thank him. Jesus’ actions were incredible to the people of his time. The lepers were breaking the law by even approaching the Lord. Still, he allowed it. Despite the fears of the community, he cured the lepers and—to fulfill the law—sent the lepers to complete the Jewish ceremony that would reunite them to the community.

There is no doubt that hardship unites strangers and even those who might be adversaries under other conditions. People live in buildings where they share no common space except an elevator. Often, they do not know the people who live in the apartment next door but all that can change in the face of common adversity or need.

When I lived in a Chicago high-rise, a power blackout did what good will could not accomplish. Owners and renters alike shared the problems—no lights, no elevators, no water. We met one another in the lobby. There was a sense of friendship during that time.

Something similar happens on my street whenever we have what passes for a snowstorm in Portland. We knock on one another’s doors, clear each other’s driveways and pick up groceries for each other. It is not unusual that this should happen. Countless support groups where people share common adversities testify to the fact that problems and difficulties bring people together who might not otherwise ever know one another.

In today’s Gospel, the lepers came in a group. One of them was a Samaritan who was ordinarily excluded from society. In their common misfortune, the other lepers did not care. What they shared was more important than their differences. There were few other events that would bring a Samaritan and a Jew into association with one another. Only one returned to thank Jesus. They were no longer bonded by a plight that set them at odds with the community. The Samaritan was still a “foreigner” but faith bonded him to the Lord.

There are outcasts in every form of society. It is natural for them to bond with one another. Often they approach the Church as a group. We are called to reach out to them, to welcome and reconcile, to heal and be healed. For many, this will be a step toward faith.

As we gather at the altar, we pray for all those who are alienated from us by event or circumstance. We ask for the grace to reach out to them with the loving arms of the Lord who calls them to himself through us.