Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus[d] was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers[e] approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show your selves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’[f] feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Were none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Gratitude is an act of appreciation, of awareness, it is a choice. We choose to dwell in love, in active thanksgiving, celebrating the gifts we have received, the abundance that surrounds us. There are so many voices surrounding us these days, telling us to be afraid, telling us we don’t have enough, telling us we aren’t good enough, and to be fair, these voices are pretty persistent and loud, but we have another voice, that still, quiet voice which is always present to us, which reminds us that we are wholly loved and cherished, that we need not be afraid, that we have enough and we are enough.
We can choose to dwell in gratitude, to deny those voices which insist we do anything other than this. A grateful heart is a peaceful heart, is a loving heart; living a life of gratitude is an act of holy appreciation. It is to continually look and see all the wonderful things that God has done for us. We are invited to stand in awe of the immensity of God’s love and providence. Today is a gift none of us have earned or deserve, Life itself is a gift. Today we stand, or sit, surrounded by the incredible beauty of this community, a loving, kind, and gracious community. A community which reaches out and enfolds the lost, the hurting, the lonely, a community which feeds the hungry and accompanies the sick and dying with love and grace.
We can choose to dwell in gratitude through this act of holy appreciation. We choose to dwell in gratitude when we notice the care and affection given us every single day. The hot cup of coffee, the warm dinner, the lighting of a fire place, the hand which reaches out to hold our hand, each act a simple gesture of love, of care, of being seen, which we are invited to appreciate. ‘a grateful heart is a peaceful heart, is a loving heart’ holy appreciation is a deliberate act, a choice to see all the gifts and love around us. , it is an invitation to raise our eyes from the hard work, from any grief or loss that weighs on us, and see the light of love and grace in our daily life. To stay awake and woke to the beauty and the light of God pouring down on us like sunlight breaking through the clouds on a cold day.
Perfect love casts our fear, and it frees us to be more wholly who we were created to be. Voices of scarcity and fear will tell us that we are only hungry for the next new thing, or that we need to be better than we are, or that we will never have enough. That still, small voice within reminds us that we are children of God, created in God’s very image, that we are enough, and we have enough. What we are really hungry for is meaning and purpose, we hunger for what we are not giving. We have a need to give, to know that our life has meaning and purpose. We hunger to know that our lives are being lived with integrity and that we are living faithful lives. We think sometimes that we are hungry for what we do not have, that we always need one more thing, but the need we are trying to fill is that of meaning and purpose, that of expressing our love and care, our creativity and gifts. We long to live into our God given identities, a longing that God has written into our very heart and soul. We were created in community for community and we long for this interconnectedness.
If the first blessing, the first gift that Jesus gave to the lepers was that of physical healing, the second, which only the tenth received, was that of abiding in and dwelling in deep love and gratitude. It was to be moved from suspicion to trust, from isolation to connection, from enslavement to an imposed self reliance to the reality of interdependence and community. We are all part of the body of Christ. I will not be well while my brother, while my sister is not well and realizing this, my heart is opened, my life transformed. Gratitude is the great gesture of this passage, this transformation.
And this gesture of passage unites us. It unites us as human beings, for we realize that in this whole passing universe we humans are the ones who pass and know that we pass. There lies our human dignity. There lies our human task. The task of entering into the meaning of this passage (the passage which is our whole life), of celebrating its meaning through the gesture of thanksgiving.” Of deep abiding gratitude.
– Br. David Steindl-Rast
The tenth leper was so overwhelmed he moved completely out of fear, he did not rush off hoping his good fortune wouldn’t be taken from him, his faith was so firm he never even considered that his good fortune, this gift of healing, could be lost. He simply rejoiced. He exulted in this moment of joy, of healing. He withheld nothing of himself held not one shred of doubt, can this be real, but simply let go with exuberant joy.
I imagine that some of the others might have rushed off, thinking, “a man who can heal so easily must be incredibly powerful, imagine what else he might do. With all that power, he could be dangerous,” and so they scurried away, in fear.
Another might have thought, “Oh wow! I’m healed! But….is it for real? Will it last? I’d better see a priest as quick as I can before it goes away. How long do you think it will last?” he might have wondered as he rushed to the temple, fear driving him.
All of these lepers had at one time, been a part of the community they were hoping to return to. Families they hadn’t seen or interacted with for years. Friends they could no longer hang out with. How often had they dreamt of healing, of being home again, of seeing old friends or attending celebrations, the weddings of their children, Passover, harvest, all the traditional gatherings.
How long had they been standing on the edge of society, having to warn off passersby, calling out, “unclean, unclean,” bearing the shame of having somehow failed or simply not being good enough, but not being able to do anything about it.
And now it was within their grasp. Yet only one was able to accept this grace fully, only one was able to fully enter the moment, to leave off all fearful doubts and simply rejoice. Now, I know that I am one of those who often struggle to accept good things. I probably would have been one of the 9 lepers who ran off, not trusting that all this grace and goodness could be real, or could really be for me.
But if we can really feel our blessing, wake up to the enfolding love of God, the full embrace of this loving and gracious community, our whole lives will be changed, transformed, made new.
We are those who live in the middle of blessing so rich that we are like fish in water, wondering what it might be like to really swim. We are a blessed and loving community, healed and made whole through the love of Jesus Christ and today we have this incredible invitation to move into gratitude and let it shift and change our hearts.
It’s a new way of being, this act of letting go of all anxiety and fear, of letting oneself be overwhelmed by love and gratitude. We may lose our way, time and again. Old memories may reassert themselves. The voices that tell us we are not good enough or we don’t have enough will continue to shout, and we may fall into fear and anxiety again. The antidote to fear and anxiety is love and to experience love fully is to find one’s self suffused with gratitude and if we let that gratitude suffuse our whole being, we may well find ourselves dancing, or kneeling, praying or singing, and nothing will be the same again.