Scripture readings for 10/13

The readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost show us three examples of lives of faithfulness. To be full of faith is to have a steady devotion and unfailing loyalty to someone in consistent practice regardless of changing circumstances.

  • In the Gospel reading the Samaritan leper showed steady faith in Christ both before and after he was healed.
  • The Old Testament reading is about another foreigner who was counted as an Israelite through faith. Regardless of the circumstances, she showed steady devotion to her mother-in-law and Israel’s God.
  • The New Testament reading proclaims God’s faithfulness to humans and urges our faithful response despite the cost.

The Gospel reading:

Luke 17:11-19

Some lepers, excluded from regular society but living together for mutual support, were certain Jesus could cure them. Approaching him, they begged him from a distance to have mercy on them. Anyone cured of leprosy was required to be declared cleansed by a priest according to Levitical law, and Jesus sent them on their way to the priest before they were healed. All ten went in faith.

But did they return in faith? For dramatic effect, St. Luke withheld the detail that one of the lepers was a Samaritan, an ethnic people despised by the Jews. It was only this despised outsider who returned to thank Jesus and praise God. Jesus told him, “Your faith has made you well.” But remember, this healing is Jesus’ work, not the Samaritan’s; his faith wasn’t the medicine that cured him, it was the tool Jesus used to deliver the cure to all ten men.

But the word for ‘healed’ also means ‘saved.’ It is more likely that Jesus meant the Samaritan’s faith is full and complete. His was a faith that not only saw Jesus as a miracle-worker but also as a Savior from sin. His faith was not only the tool through which Jesus gave physical healing but through which he also provided eternal salvation.

The Old Testament reading:

Ruth 1:1-19a

The Book of Ruth accents the faithfulness of God. The mention of the time of the judges in the first verse brings to mind the dark period of Israel’s apostasy, moral degradation, and political oppression. The book is a foil to that story.

Prompted by a famine, a Moabite girl loyally followed her Israelite mother-in-law back to Israel, was “employed” as a worker in a grain field, was encouraged in a romance by the shrewdness of her mother-in-law and by the courtesy of her future husband, who ultimately redeemed the family property and continued the family name by marrying the girl. A natural chain of circumstances? In part, yes. But behind it all, spinning the web of events, is the Divine Architect arranging for his Son, the Savior of the world, to be born into that world through the lineage of David.

This story is connected to the Gospel reading on this Sunday because both are about foreigners who have faith in the God of Israel. Like the Samaritan, Ruth’s faith has healed (saved) her. The key phrase is verse 16, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Participation in the kingdom of God is not determined by blood or birth, but by faith. Through faith, you live where Jesus lives; his Father is your God; his people are your people.

The New Testament reading:

2 Timothy 2:1-13

Following Jesus is not easy. Only one leper returned to give thanks to Jesus. Only Ruth left her homeland with her mother-in-law. Following Jesus requires everything you have. It requires enduring hardships and toil with a soldier’s single loyalty, an athlete’s rigorous self-discipline, and a farmer’s strenuous industry. Hardship and sacrifice are inherent to the Christian life, which is why Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation of Christian hope.

God’s love for our world has opened up a new hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus. For those who take the risk of trusting and following Jesus, God promises vindication and life. For those who reject him, God will honor their decision and do the same, but their faithlessness will never compel God to abandon his faithfulness. St. Paul calls Timothy, and his readers, to have faithfulness, knowing that it may come with a cost. We are to work and suffer in the faith that union with Christ in suffering and death is the assurance of union with him in life and glory.