28th Sunday Year C - Homily 5


Homily 5 - 2022

The punch-line in today’s Gospel passage is Jesus’ observation about the Samaritan’s faith. It has had me thinking a lot during the week.

What singled out the Samaritan from the other nine persons who had also been physically “cleansed” was that, in his case, his “faith had saved” him — and Jesus saw that as something altogether more wonderful. Jesus highlighted the difference between what the Samaritan’s own faith had done for him and the mere “cleansing” from physical illness that Jesus had wrought in all ten. The difference? Being saved was an internal, spiritual experience of becoming more “whole”.

What emphasised that personal difference was the Samaritan’s proceeding to “praise God” and “to thank” Jesus. There is a highly significant difference between being simply healthy, or getting physically well after sickness, and being at peace with the world and wanting to praise and to thank others where appropriate. How many among our contemporaries are physically healthy yet anything but at peace within themselves [and all that “being at peace” conveys]?

What was the experience of the “other nine” that their failure to return might have high-lighted? Whatever their moving around together might have indicated, I wonder if they were friends, and could enjoy each other’s company; how much they helped each other; whether they could happily share with each other whatever food came their way. If not, they were anything but personally, spiritually, whole.

It is interesting that wherever we find in the Gospels the word translated as “saved”, it could equally accurately be translated as “made whole”. To become “whole” required more than Jesus’ action. Though invariably requiring Jesus’ caring, loving intervention, it also needed personal cooperation. It needed faith, as Jesus so often commented. And “faith” simply means “trust”. People need to be aware of Jesus’ caring love in order to trust — and that trust or faith calls for a real “freeing up” on people’s part.

We will not trust anyone in anything that really matters unless we also intuit their love and care for us personally. With that freeing up enabled by our trusting, and particularly with our believing the wonderful love that God has for us, also comes a renewed capacity really to enjoy life more. It releases us from our self-absorption and enables us to be genuinely thankful as well, to be able and open to see the giftedness of each other and so to praise freely where praise is due.

So many people lack the freedom even to be able to chance themselves trustfully to God at all. For some, life has been so cruel, or they have felt so unsupported or unloved, that they cannot really trust anyone. Any sense others may have picked up of God from peers or from the surrounding culture can be so distorted, or simply inadequate, that they ignore, even dislike, God. That grieves me. Sadly, their reaction is not rare. It explains so much of the hostility abroad in the world. Hostility seems contagious. Violence breeds violence. The world we live in is not a spontaneously happy world. We need salvation so much.

I sometimes wonder what the experience will be when eventually we graduate from earthly life to eternal life, and see God as God really is, and know and experience God’s love face to face? Could anyone still not love and trust that God with utter freedom and joy?

We don’t know in any detail what salvation will be like in heaven. But from my limited, finite, experience of its beginnings already here on earth, I am starting to think it can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, let us try to open ourselves to its earthly possibilities in the hope that life on earth becomes ever more liveable for everyone.