Wis 6:1-11; Ps 82:3-7; Lk 17:11-19
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini heard the cries of the Italian immigrants to these United States and became one of them. This compassionate Italian sister journeyed far to share the life of the lowly foreign speaking Catholics who were such a threat to some, and such an economic boon to others. Italian immigrants were not usually the wealthy of the mother country. They became a cheap labor force in the U.S. and were manipulated by politicians and “protectors” alike. Sister Frances Xavier was deeply concerned for their well being and for their faith. This religious woman founder directed her sisters to reveal the compassion and closeness of the LORD for the brokenhearted, for those who were crushed in spirit. These courageous women taught the children of the immigrants to bless the LORD at all times, in times of success and of failure. For the LORD hears the just when they cry out, and from all their distress he rescues them. As the author of Wisdom teaches us, so Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini taught her sisters, and they taught their young Italian Americans, “Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love.” The missionary virgin Saint Frances and her companions were faith filled servants who sought only to praise the Lord and serve his crushed and brokenhearted children, alone and rejected in a foreign land. They sought no glory for themselves or rewards in this life; their hands and hearts were filled with the glory of God and the lowly heard their praise-filled voices, and they were glad.
No one gives much attention to the lowly and the poor. Indeed, that is the definition of what it means to be lowly and poor, you are invisible, unnoticed, hidden. It is only the LORD who can be trusted to rescue the lowly and the poor. The LORD sees, notices, and finds those whom most of us can’t be bothered with. The only time we take the time to notice the ones everyone forgets is when they bother us, annoy us, or violate boundaries. If someone crosses over into our comfort zone we notice and we are uncomfortable. The psalm has us pleading the LORD to defend the defenseless and render true justice for the afflicted and destitute. We beg the LORD to rescue the lowly and the poor from the hands of the wicked, “rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth.” Anyone who is powerful on the earth is reminded of death. Indeed, all-important and self-important upon the earth will die and fall like any prince. The book of Wisdom is addressed to such as these, “To you, therefore, O princes, are my words addressed that you may learn wisdom and that you may not sin.” This same wisdom the Samaritan leper teaches all the companions of the Lord Jesus. We are here to hear and respond to the wisdom from on high. We are taught to taste and see that the Lord is good, to feed on the wisdom of his Body and Blood given so that we might give, even as we have received.
What is the most important lesson for those who have power? What wisdom do those in authority have to learn? The author of the book of Wisdom does not hold back, and his answer is not politically correct. All the mighty are mightily put to the test, and no one is spared scrutiny. Too easily do those who are magistrates, who are in power over the multitude, who lord it over throngs, all too easily do they believe themselves exempt from judgment and punishment. Wisdom from on high summons those who lead to hear and fear the LORD, “For the Lord of all shows no partiality, nor does he fear greatness, because he himself made the great as well as the small, and he provides for all alike; but for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends.” Indeed, the LORD gives power, and the LORD gives sovereignty. These gifts are given for the sake of the whole community, and for the sake of the entire people those who lead must grow in holiness. If those who lead want to be faithful to their gifts, they must set the example for all who follow. Wisdom then must be desired and learned by those who have power so that the powerless might be strong in the things that matter most.
There were none more powerless at the time of the public ministry of the Lord Jesus than the lepers. However, they were not to be ignored, forgotten or hidden. They had to make a lot of noise by law. They had to shout and make their presence know. This early warning system protected the healthy members of society from the curse of leprosy. In today’s gospel from Saint Luke, the Lord Jesus is traveling south to Jerusalem, and on the way he travels through those lands that were considered leprous. The lands of Samaria and Galilee were filled with unfaithful heretics and faithless pagans. Here among the socially and spiritually unclean the Lord meets a group of ten physically unclean. Out of respect or custom they stood at a distance from the Lord Jesus and raised their voices in petition, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” The Lord, the compassionate healer, halted and cried out to them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” This he did to fulfill the law of Moses that demanded the permission of the priest for a leper to return to the community. Even the Samaritan was familiar with this instruction from the Torah. He realized what the Lord Jesus was telling them in his command; his fellow Jews were not that aware of their own Scriptures. Indeed, this grateful and healed leper became a sign of how the powerless and marginalized can teach all of us who need healing in our journey of faith. This unfaithful heretic continues to have great wisdom for us, his fellow lepers. As the compassionate Lord Jesus meets us today at this liturgy may we be as grateful and wise as the unnamed foreigner in today’s gospel.