Ten lepers (Lk 17:12-17:12)

“As Jesus

Entered a village,

Ten lepers

Approached him.

They kept

Their distance.”

 

καὶ εἰσερχομένου αὐτοῦ εἴς τινα κώμην ἀπήντησαν δέκα λεπροὶ ἄνδρες, οἳ ἔστησαν πόρρωθεν

 

Only Luke has this story about the curing of the ten lepers, although Luke had Jesus cure a leper earlier in chapter 5:12-16, that can be found in the other synoptics, Matthew, chapter 8:1-4, and Mark, chapter 1:40-45.  Luke indicated that Jesus entered a village (καὶ εἰσερχομένου αὐτοῦ εἴς τινα κώμην), where 10 lepers approached or met him (ἀπήντησαν δέκα λεπροὶ ἄνδρες).  However, these lepers kept their distance (οἳ ἔστησαν πόρρωθεν).  Leprosy was some kind of skin disease that was usually found among poor people.  Today, there are about 2,000,000 people with leprosy or Hansen’s disease, mostly in India, Indonesia, and Brazil.  The Greek word “λέπρας” used here is a broader definition of leprosy than just Hansen’s disease.  Leprosy was a Jewish religious problem also.  What to do about it was clearly defined in Leviticus, chapters 13-14.  Leprosy in the wide sense was considered unclean and had religious connotations, since only a priest could declare a person clean, with a distinct ritual for cleansing the leper.  As a leper, they were considered unclean and not fit to live in normal communal life.  Thus, there were spiritual, physical, social, and religious implications with being a leper.  Here there were 10 lepers in this village, so that they might have been a small leper colony.  They approached Jesus, but kept their appropriate distance from him, since they were quarantined from being with other non-leper people.  Have you ever met a leper?

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Throw the bad salt away (Lk 14:35-14:35)

“This salt is fit

Neither

For the soil,

Nor for the manure pile.

Throw it away!

Let anyone

With ears

To hear,

Listen!”

 

οὔτε εἰς γῆν οὔτε εἰς κοπρίαν εὔθετόν ἐστιν· ἔξω βάλλουσιν αὐτό. ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that this salt was fit (εὔθετόν ἐστιν) neither for the soil (οὔτε εἰς γῆν), nor for the manure pile (οὔτε εἰς κοπρίαν).  It should be thrown away (ἔξω βάλλουσιν αὐτό).  Let anyone with ears to hear (ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν), listen (ἀκουέτω)!  This saying of Jesus can be found somewhat similar in Matthew, chapter 5:13, and Mark, chapter 9:50.  Matthew indicated that Jesus said that tasteless salt was now useless, impotent, and not good for anything (εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι).  The end result of this insipid salt was that it should either be thrown away (εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω) or have people trample it down (καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων).  Mark indicated that Jesus then turned to his followers.  He told them that they should have salt within themselves (ἔχετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ἅλα), not exactly the salt of the earth, but close enough.  They should be at peace with one another (καὶ εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἀλλήλοις).  There was no indication here about throwing salt away because it had become useless, as in Matthew and Luke.  Salt would bring about brotherly peace or love.  Only Luke had the admonition to listen to what Jesus was saying.  How much salt do you use?

The preaching of John the Baptist (Mk 1:7-1:7)

“John proclaimed.

‘The one who is

More powerful

Than I,

Is coming after me.

I am not worthy

To stoop down

And untie

The tong

Of his sandals.’”

 

καὶ ἐκήρυσσεν λέγων Ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου ὀπίσω μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς κύψας λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ.

 

Mark and Matthew, chapter 3:11, are similar in their exposition of the preaching of John the Baptist.  However, there was no mention of a baptism of repentance here as in Matthew.  Also, Matthew had John unfit to carry the sandal rather than untie the sandal.  Luke, chapter 3:16-17, had John the Baptist not preaching, but responding to questions about whether he was the Messiah.  Luke, as well as John, chapter 1:27, also had John speak about being unfit to untie the tong or strap of his sandals.  John the Baptist was anticipating a messianic figure greater than himself.  He was the precursor or forerunner of Jesus, so that sometimes he was also identified with the prophet Elijah.  Mark said that John proclaimed (καὶ ἐκήρυσσεν λέγων) with a messianic tone that one more powerful than him was coming after him (Ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου ὀπίσω μου).  He was not worthy or fit to stoop down (οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς κύψας) and untie the tong or the strap of his sandals (λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ).  John saw himself as subservient to the Messiah to come.

Fear of the Lord (Sir 32:14-32:17)

“Whoever seeks God

Will accept his discipline.

Whoever rises early

To seek him

Will find his favor.

Whoever seeks the law

Will be filled with it.

But the hypocrite

Will stumble at it.

Whoever fears the Lord

Will form true judgments.

They will kindle righteous deeds

Like a light.

The sinner

Will shun reproof.

He will find a decision

According to his liking.”

Once again, Sirach has linked everything to the fear of God. Anyone who is seeking God must accept God’s discipline. You have to get up early to seek God. You should seek the law and be filled with it. The law, of course, means the commandments of God. You should not be a hypocrite who stumbles around. If you fear the Lord, you will make true judgments that will end up with righteous deeds that kindle a light like a fire. The sinner does not like to be reprimanded. The sinner likes only the decisions that fit his way of thinking.

Health (Sir 30:14-30:17)

“Better off is a poor person

Who is healthy and fit

Than a rich person

Who is afflicted in his body.

Health is better

Than any gold.

Fitness is better

Than any gold.

A robust body is better

Than countless riches.

There is no wealth better

Than the health of a body.

There is no gladness

Above joy of the heart.

Death is better

Than a miserable life.

Eternal sleep is better

Than chronic sickness.”

Sirah proclaims that a poor healthy fit person is better off than an afflicted sickly rich person. Good health and fitness are better than any gold. A robust healthy body is better than wealth. A joyful heart is full of gladness. Death is better than a miserable life. Eternal death is better than a chronic sickness. Sirach almost seems to imply that euthanasia would be better than life with a chronic illness.

Be kind to all (Sir 4:6-4:10)

If in bitterness of soul,

Some should curse you,

Their Creator will hear their prayer.

Endear yourself to the congregation.

Bow your head low to the great.

Give a hearing to the poor.

Return their greeting politely.

Rescue the oppressed from the oppressor.

Do not be hesitant in giving a verdict.

Be like a father to orphans.

Be like a husband to their mother.

You will then be like a son of the Most High.

He will love you more than does your mother.”

Now it may happen, that someone who is bitter might curse you. Let the Creator God judge you. Fit into your community. Bow your head to the people in charge. Listen to the poor. Greet them politely. Rescue those who are being abused. Do not be afraid to make a judgment. Be like a father to orphans and a husband to widows. If you do these things, you will be like a son of the Most High God. God, the Creator, will love you more than your mother does. This is a strong demand for a civil society.

The importance of words (Prov 25:11-25:13)

“A word fitly spoken

Is like apples of gold

In a setting of silver.

Like a gold ring,

Like an ornament of gold,

Is a wise rebuke to a listening ear.

Like the cold of snow,

In the time of harvest,

Are faithful messengers

To those who send them.

They refresh the spirit of their masters.”

A fit correct word spoken at the right time is like a golden setting in silver, like a golden ring, or an ornament of gold. In other words, to say the right word at the right time is important. This can be like a wise rebuke to someone who will take it to heart, if they are listening. The right word sent at the right time is like a cold snow at harvest time or like a faithful messenger. Both refresh the spirit of the one working in the field or the one expecting some news.