(Text from my column in the Sacred Heart parish bulletin)
Dear Believers in Jesus,
This gospel today (Luke 17:19) is a favorite of mine because Jesus breaks down so many barriers. In our culture, it is difficult to understand how countercultural this passage really is for the early Christian community.
The trauma of leprosy was real. People were moved to the margins of their community because they were not only contagious but thought to be possessed by demons. Usually the leper died alone, separated from daily meals with loved ones, education, care, compassion and hope. Jesus steps in the center of the turmoil. I believe that Jesus still does this, even now in our lives and world.
The gospel suggests that people have always separated out those they did not want to deal with. This human action is deep. We still divide. We still separate out. We still draw lines about who is in and who is out. We live in a time where division is profoundly real. We see this during our national campaigns for the presidency. We see this in our families when children and parents do not get along and siblings still fight for attention. We see this in the way we blame people for mental illness or disease, or when we draw lines in the Church about who stands on which side of Vatican II. Divisions, lines drawn, isolation and fear are all real, even today.
For Jesus, there are no outcasts. Jesus’ presence heals. Today, in our prayer, we understand that we are challenged to be the healing that we desire. We are to become Jesus’ presence among outcasts. We are to be converted into the dying and rising of Jesus.
This encounter Jesus has with outcasts also shows us how to be grateful. Gratitude in this text is the grand healer. One man who was healed comes back to Jesus in gratefulness. This suggests that gratitude is hard to come by and that a grateful heart is the full expression of faith, love and hope. Being grateful is also contagious.
Here are some ways to pray through this gospel:
Jesus, help us realize our own trauma and the ways in which we separate other people…
Jesus, help us to cross the boundaries of how we shun people or think that only some deserve you…
Jesus, come to us and heal all the separations even in our own hearts….
Jesus, help us always to remain in full gratitude…
Gospel Lk 17:11-19
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”