Saturday, October 9, 2010

Healing Faith

One can define faith as the desire, decision and practice of people to perceive the generosity and inner radiance of God and to express their appreciation through worship, openness to the divine will, and the practice of bearing witness to the Creator’s care and compassion toward creatures.
One of the definitions of “pananampalataya” in “Mga Kataga sa Teolohiyang Doktrinal”[Terms in Doctrinal Theology] is: “hangarin, pasiya, at pagsisikap ng tao na tumanaw ng utang-na-loob sa Bathala sa pamamagitan ng pagsamba at pakikinig sa kanya at paghahayag at pagsasabuhay ng kanyang pagmamagandang-loob sa bawa’t nilalang” (p. 30).
This is the faith that healed the Samaritan with a skin ailment, as “when he saw he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice” (Luke 17:15). In a story that is found only in the gospel of Luke, Jesus cleansed ten men with skin ailments, but only the Samaritan returned to praise God. What happened to the other nine?
Perhaps the nine cleansed Jews were shocked that the Samaritan was also cleansed. Jews considered Samaritans unworthy rivals in the worship of Yhwh. The Samaritans had put up their own temple on Mount Gerizim. Antagonism towards Samaritans was rooted in Jewish history and tradition.
In 2 Kings, after the Israelite Northern Kingdom of Samaria fell to the Assyrian army, “the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites” (2 Kgs 17:24). The new settlers “worshipped Yhwh, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought” (17:33). The Samaritans in Jesus’ time were considered descendants of those settlers who both worshipped Yhwh and served their idols.
Jesus cleansed the Samaritan because his messianic mission is “to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18, Isaiah 58:6) or to release those imprisoned or oppressed by sin, injustice, and prejudice. The Samaritan not only was healed but was saved because of his faith, which was authentic as he came back to express publicly his great appreciation of God’s compassion. Unlike the nine others, the Samaritan underwent authentic healing, he experienced a real miracle, he experienced salvation, as he decided to bear witness to divine compassion. He expressed the faith that heals, the faith that saves.
Perhaps the nine others, although physically cleansed, did not want to be healed of their prejudice. If that were the case, no miracle happened, for there would be no transformation of the heart. The real miracle involves conversion or inner transformation, as "the Kindom of God is within you" when it comes (Lk 17:21).
Jesus also suffered prejudice, for example, from his town-mates in the synagogue who drove him out of the town to throw him down the cliff, after he, who was not known to be an official teacher or guardian of their tradition, dared to remind them of God’s graciousness to outsiders like the widow in Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian during the times of the prophets Elijah and Elisha (Lk 4:24-30).
Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, had a skin ailment, and was instructed by the prophet Elisha to dip himself in the Jordan seven times. He underwent authentic healing, as he went back to Elisha to proclaim that he “will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord” (2 Kgs 5:17).
Jesus went on with his mission even though most of the beneficiaries, the nine others, did not truly believe in the divine will to set all the oppressed free. Jesus went on even though many guardians of the tradition and his own town-mates did not appreciate his ministry. Because of God’s inner radiance, Christ is faithful to his divine mission no matter what happens. “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
de Guzman, Emmanuel, Joselito Henson, Reginald Cruz and Dennis Gonzalez. “Mga Kataga sa Teolohiyang Doktrinal.” Quezon City, 2001. ISBN 971-92378-0-5.

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