October 14, 2001

Luke 17:11-19

It happened that as [Jesus] made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"

Taking a good look at them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests."

They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus' feet, so grateful. He couldn't thank him enough -- and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus said, "Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?" Then he said to him, "Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you."

<The Message >


1. Realizing we are healed is a special moment. This is a different realization than that of being cured.

Here there is no incantation or action to indicate healing has been achieved. It happens in the quiet of a journey. This surprise can be reacted to in several different ways. One breaks the accepted pattern (of course it would be a Samaritan!) and returns without fulfilling the command given. This is what we are looking at here.

But, imagine for a moment, that the potential for being healed is present with you right now. Wow! In "fact," it can be claimed at any moment. So what keeps us from the recognition and the response noted here?

2. I suspect it usually takes an outsider to be thankful in the excessive way told in this tale. To be an insider would be to follow the accepted pattern - get a cure certified, offer the prescribed offering, go home to celebrate a return to community, and begin living another ordinary life.

Of course this doesn't respond to the possibility that all 10 were Samaritans. Then we get into some other interesting dynamics. For the moment I choose to imagine the minyan of lepers to be a very diverse bunch held together only by their common ailment (as we have been held together by the common ailment of terror in recent days). Are we ready for gratitude in the midst of a terror as far removed from most of us as leprosy and as near as the disease of violence?

3. The reflection in the New Interpreter's Bible ends with this comment:
"In what sense, then is gratitude an expression of faith? Does not gratitude follow from faith? Or is gratitude itself an expression of faith? If gratitude reveals humility of spirit and a sensitivity to the grace of God in one's life, then is there any better measure of faith than wonder and thankfulness before what one perceives as unmerited expressions of love and kindness from God and from others? Are we self-made individuals beholden to no one, or are we blessed daily in ways we seldom perceive, cannot repay, and for which we often fail to be grateful? Here is a barometer of spiritual health: If gratitude is not synonymous with faith, neither response to God is separable from the other. Faith, like gratitude, is our response to the grace of God as we have experienced it. For those who have become aware of God's grace, all of life is infused with a sense of gratitude, and each encounter becomes an opportunity to see and to respond in the spirit of the grateful leper."

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