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Is Our "Thank-you" More than Skin Deep?

"Genuine love draws others in and does not cast them out" 10-10-10

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(10-10) As Jesus and his disciples continued their journey south to Jerusalem, the City of his destiny, they paused at the sight of ten men huddled together. It was Samaritan country. These ten men suffered from a type of contagious skin-disease. They were outcasts from society and were not allowed by law to approach anyone. One of them was doubly an outcast. He not only suffered from a contagious skin-disease. He was also a "Samaritan". According to the other Jews in the group he was a "Jewish heretic." They shouted to Jesus: "Master, have pity on us." Strangely enough, Jesus did not draw close to them. He simply raised his voice: "Go, show yourselves to the priests". This group whom common misery had made company must have had some rudimentary faith in Jesus---because they headed to the temple in Jerusalem. The priests at the "health certification center" in the temple area could then certify what happened to them. On their way all of them realized that they were cured. Nine of them continued on their way. We can imagine them sharing the story of their cure over Manishevitz with their families: "Look closely. This is where Rabbi Jesus healed me. Drink up!" Their "thanks" was only skin-deep.

One of the "original ten", however, could not show himself in the temple-- he remained an outcast because he was a "Samaritan". He dared not show himself at the "health certification center" in the Temple area. Having no one else to go to in his effort to glorify God, the "outcast" returned to Jesus, praised him in ringing tones and thanked him. Jesus wondered: "Has none but this ‘foreigner’ returned to give thanks to God? This is the only time that the word ‘foreigner’ is used in any of the gospels. The faith in Jesus of this "foreigner", this "stranger" had brought him salvation. From the way Jesus reacts to him you and I learn to be more open to the surprising action of God who acts without prejudice and loves without bias. Jesus’ love for the Samaritan makes the "outcast" become one with all of us and all humans.

The action of Rabbi Jesus, our teacher, compels us to consider how open we are to the "stranger", the "outcast" in our midst. Some outcasts seem to invite our mistrust. Homeless persons who lack a valid address that deprives them of many rights and opportunities that we take for granted may unfortunately at times cause us to distance ourselves from them. Hate-mongering groups due to fear, ignorance, and malice make "outcasts" out of those whom they cannot stomach.--HIV and AIDS patients. Recall that superb movie, -Philadelphia- in which the AIDS patient, a gay attorney played by Tom Hanks faces an intolerable shunning from others in his law firm. Consider the recent action of the Rutgers University student who committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge when someone had somehow managed to videostream him in his bedroom with a companion. Such a hateful action treated the young student as an "outcast."

Consider the current national frenzy raised by a small religious congregation consisting almost entirely of family members who travel around the nation and set up hateful signs near the funerals of military personnel who have given their lives for you and me. In doing such despicable actions they try to make these women and men in the military become "outcasts."

The perpetrators of hate treat their victims as outcasts. They even project their own hatred onto God – even trying to make him into their own image when they claim that God hates whoever they hate. Such actions do not square with the approach of Jesus. God in his staggering love for us never "casts us out." He always seeks to "draw us in" to accepting his love. You and I act in God’s image as we struggle to meaningfully accept the Father’s love for us through Jesus. . . .not "casting any other person out." But always "drawing the other person in."

Both in today’s second reading and in the gospel itself there is no whisper of judgment. From Jesus, the Word made our flesh, there is only kindness and caring that stimulates and challenges you and me to a similar kindness and compassionate caring for others

Our faith helps us to make our own the attitude of Jesus. It is only because God loves us that we are able meaningfully to love ourselves and others. We live as we are loved. As you and I grow in meeting our lifelong challenge—maturing into our genuine, true selves—as men and women loved ceaselessly by God---we grow in loving and compassionate concern for all others and ourselves. We live as we are loved. May our thanks for God’s great gift- his love for us—be always more than "skin-deep."

Read other homilies by Father Paul