Jesus tells the lepers to go and show themselves to the priests. They are not cured until they are on their way. Their act of compliance with the requirements of ritual and legal purity represents their capacity for faith, in action.

It is very difficult for many of us to have such faith of compliance and action. These two components give faith its coherence and consistency and commitment. Yet we typically resist being told what to do. Yes, we want the miracles, but not all the rules that accompany faith. One of the top ten reasons why people leave the Catholic Church is “all the rules.”

Americans want to be free, which usually means a “go it alone” attitude of individualistic independence. It is an “I can do whatever I want” attitude, and on of “nobody tells me what to do.” In all truth this is not any kind of authentic freedom. These are the same people who would throw themselves at the feet of one or the other political demagogue and hand over their freedom for a pot of porridge, i.e., the economic benefits. This freedom they speak of is really understood as a kind of immorality because there is no responsibility for acts in their picture.

In this gospel we see Jesus himself complying with the Mosaic law, as he does throughout the gospels. He tells us he comes to fulfill that law. His freedom, and ours, is oriented toward that law, taking it to the next step. In other words we come to that beloved American behavior, “minimalism.” The nine lepers are minimalistic because they do not fulfill the law and return to Jesus with thanks, of which Psalm 98 speaks this Sunday.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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