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Tracking the Footsteps of the Enlightened Jesus through India (Sunday Homily)

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God belongs to everyone. Everyone belongs to God.

By Jesus' time, nearly 800 years after Naaman's cure, Israel still wasn't buying that message. In fact, they had narrowed God's presence to particular locations within the land of Israel. Orthodox Jews believed God was present on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and could only be really worshipped in the Temple there. Samaritans, on the other hand, believed that the place to worship Yahweh was on Mt. Gerizim, where they said Abraham had nearly sacrificed his son, Isaac.

In other words, Samaritans embodied a sectarian battle among the descendants of Abraham over where to worship God -- was it on the Temple Mount or on Mount Gerizim?

Jesus completely ignores the debate.   He cures a Samaritan along with nine other lepers -- presumably all Jews.

The story is simple: the lepers approach Jesus. He tells them to "show yourselves to the priests." It's not clear what Jesus had in mind. Some say there was a law requiring cured lepers to be certified by the priests. Others say Jesus' intention was to confront the priests, to assert his identity (as his mentor, John the Baptist had done) as the people's alternative high priest.

  In any case, the lepers leave in search of the priests, and on the way are cured. As we well know, only the Samaritan leper returns to thank Jesus. Why? Was it that the priests had persuaded the others not to return, since they were convinced that Jesus was possessed?

On the other hand, the priests would probably have refused to see the Samaritan, because of their deep prejudice.

So the Samaritan turns out to be the hero of the story, not the priests or those who listen to them. Just like Naaman, the one in the story most open to God was the character most alienated from reigning cultural norms.

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And that brings me back to my opening point -- to my hopes about India. Recently I was reading an article by an Indian scholar of religion who identified Jesus as an Indian yogi. The author suggested that the reason the priests and the people of Jesus' time and culture could not understand him was that his approach to life and God was completely alien to them.

It was a mystical philosophy more akin to the Far East -- to India -- than to Middle Eastern Palestine. Put briefly Jesus' mystical philosophy can be summarized in the words "Aham Sarvum! Sarvum Aham!" --"I AM ALL. ALL is ME." In fact, Jesus' basic approach can be summarized as follows:

1.    There is a spark of the divine within every human being.

2.    That spark can be realized, i.e. energize every aspect of our lives in the here and now.

3.    It is the purpose of life to live from that place of divine presence.

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4.    Once we do so, we will recognize God's presence in every human being and in all of creation.

Or as John the Evangelist has Jesus say:

1.    "I am in the father, and the father in me." [John 14.10]

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Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Recently retired, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 36 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program.Mike blogs (more...)
 

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