Monday, 11 October 2010

Jesus, Master, have mercy on us (Lk 17:13)

(I posted my reflection of this weekend on my other (Dutch) blog... but as I wrote it anyway, post it here now as well, sorry for the delay in realizing my mistake)

This Sundays Gospel tells us about the story of the ten lepers who see Jesus coming into the village and shout to him for mercy. The text of the first reading (2 Kings 5:14-17) has the strong parallel in the story of Naaman's who was cured of his leprosy by eventually obeying the prophet Elisha.
There is a lot of symbolism connected to deceases and unfortunate events in the Old Testament, and as such in the historical Jews context Jesus is living in. At one time Jesus corrects his listeners on this connection of sin and decease or tragic events: “Those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?” (Luk 13:4 RSV). He corrects the error, or superstition, that people who experience tragic events in their lives most have offended God and have fallen out of favor.

Nevertheless, deceases are often used to symbolise sin in the Bible, and so it seems in this weeks Gospel. Leprosy was a disease that the Jews supposed to be inflicted for the punishment of some particular sin, and more than other diseases, to be a mark of God's displeasure. Leprosy is decease with mutilates the skin, our appearance, and eventually leads to the death of the person. Sin does in a way the same on a spiritual level, as it mutilates the person we really are and our relationship with God, leading eventually to death: “sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.” (Jam 1:15 RSV).

The ten lepers lifted up their voices and said: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luk 17:13 RSV). It seems interesting to me that the Greek word epistates (ἐπιστάτης) is used for Master, instead of the more regular kurios (κυρίος). Possibly the lepers didn’t recognise Jesus to the level of Lord, but it seems a nice touch that the word faith (πίστις) forms the root of the word, indicating that the Master is somebody who is faithful to his servants, they can trust Him. And this is exactly what God is, God is always faithful to his mercy for us.

It can be noted that the ten lepers didn’t ask to be healed, they just asked for the mercy of God, to not be condemned by their ‘sin’, accepting their situation of being separated from God (as they “stood at a distance” (Luk 17:12 RSV)). It is important to notice that Jesus does not sent them away or ignores them, but responds to their call. This clearly shows that God is indeed always answers us in when we cry in need.

The human heart naturally seeks God. Naturally we are standing at a distance and shout in our search for meaning, looking for reconciliation we cannot really find outside of God. God is always answering our call, God forgives us our sins and want us to be reconciled with Him. He does not ask us difficult things to do, just to trust Him and follow His guidance.

I think the question to ponder is how we respond to His help. Are we like the nine lepers who’s aim it is to be cleaned of the outward deformation, but are not subsequently turn back to Jesus who is the source of all life? When God answers the cry of our heart, and we find some (spiritual) consolation, so we just say ‘thanks’ and move on?

Even with that being ok, just doing what we are told and just move on and go through the motions of life, would we not miss so much of what is offered by God? We are offered the possibility to already live a life here on earth in a relationship with God, which will be our destiny in Heaven.

Doing what God is asking of us, following His commandments, is a good begin, but there is so much more, a whole new reality if you like. When I initially met God and started to follow His way I experienced this ‘cleansing’ and found the reason why we live. But after that it is important to continue to deepen our relation with God, so that through this relationship we have a conversion of heart. This will subsequent result in first of all thanking God for His goodness, but also returning to Him to deepen our friendship with Him and really find the path on which we are meant to walk toward the fullness of joy in His prescence.

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