October 7, 2022

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Second Book of Kings furnishes the first reading at Mass this weekend. Once the two books of Kings were a single volume, but as time passed, editors divided the volume into two parts.

They are among the Old Testament’s historical writings. While they are interested in the careers of the early kings of Israel, as the name implies, none of the Old Testament is primarily about history in and of itself.

Instead, the Old Testament books all are concerned with religion, and more precisely with the relationship between God and the Hebrew people. In the view of the ancients, the most important question in life was how to live in faithfulness to God. Nothing else ultimately mattered.

So, while the kings are prominent in these books, religious figures also are much in evidence.

This weekend’s reading is an example. The central personality is not a king, but Naaman. Two strikes are against Naaman. He is a Gentile and a leper. It was much more than a coincidence of birth, religious choice or bad health. Each circumstance smacked of estrangement from God. Leprosy was seen, for instance, as punishment for sin.

Naaman was cured by bathing in the Jordan River. The Jordan formed a border between the promised land, home of the people of Israel, and the foreign world, filled with treachery and death and unbelievers. Crossing the Jordan symbolized and was entry into the land of God’s chosen people.

After being cured, Naaman went to thank God, represented by Elisha, the prophet. It is a story, then, of divine mercy and of recognizing God’s power and mercy.

St. Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy is the source of the next reading. Paul reassured and challenged Timothy, a disciple of Paul, an early convert to Christianity and a bishop. Anyone who truly dies with Christ by dying to sin receives everlasting life with God.

St. Luke’s Gospel provides the last reading. Leprosy is mentioned throughout the Scriptures. What was it in today’s clinical sense? It was chronic and then without any known cure. Modern medicine has an answer. Then, it was a fearful fate.

Unaware of most of the workings of disease, ancient Jews saw a curse from God in leprosy. Somehow, somewhere, the leper had disobeyed God.

Fearing contagion, communities forced lepers to live apart. Isolated and spurned, lepers were forced to live lives of want to the point of starvation.

This reading also has an ethnic component. Jews scorned Samaritans since Samaritans long ago tolerated pagan invaders and intermarried with them, producing offspring not purely Hebrew, thereby blurring the identity of the chosen people. Jews thought that Samaritans were the worst of the worst, incapable of anything good.

Amid this, Jesus healed and forgave. His actions were works of the merciful God. He was God.


It is impossible today to imagine the amazement of people when they heard Jesus speak kindly of lepers or of Samaritans, who, in popular opinion, were irredeemable sinners shunned by God. This is critical for understanding the readings.

Presumably Jews, nine of the lepers cured in this story from St. Luke’s Gospel saw themselves as being entitled to God’s mercy and forgiveness.

The 10th leper was different. An unworthy Samaritan, he nevertheless realized that God’s mercy had come to him. He gave thanks to Jesus, whom the leper understood to be the bearer of divine mercy.

By sinning, we all have deserted God. We all are lepers and Samaritans. We deserve nothing, yet with unending love, God cures us of the weakening effects of our sin, restores us to life and welcomes us into the fold of those loyal to God.

The key is our own humility and recognition of our need for God. †

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