28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
October 13, 2019
“Where Are the Other Nine?”
Jesus heals ten persons with leprosy.
One returns to thank him. “Where are the other nine?”
The Other Nine
One of the healed lepers goes off to build a new life for himself.
He busies himself finding a job, a new place to live, and maybe even a family. He becomes so busy building a new life for himself that he forgets the great blessing he has received.
Another of the lepers is filled with fear and worry because he has few skills and cannot imagine who will hire him and how he will support himself.
He is so afraid and worried that he is virtually paralyzed from doing anything. He remains huddled at the town gate, alone like a leper.
Still another of the lepers determines to even the score with everyone who has ever laughed at him or scorned or ignored him because of his illness.
He vows: “They will pay for what they did to me.” He is obsessed with vengeance and never experiences any joy in his cure.
One of the healed lepers runs as far away as he can.
All he wants is to forget his old life and everything about it. He even tries to block out the cries of others who are suffering.
Another of the lepers just goes out and parties and parties and parties.
His joy lasts as long as the wine and money do. Once they are gone, he has to face his new life, lost and alone.
Still another of the lepers believes that there must be a catch and that he is not really clean and healed.
He thinks: “After all, why would anyone, especially God, do this for me?” So, he does nothing and just waits for the leprosy to return.
Healed or Not
On and on it goes with these other nine.
Because they lack a sense of gratitude for the miracle they have experienced, the miracle does not last very long. Their self-absorption, their fear and worry, their anger, their repression, their misplaced values, their skepticism, – these responses have just made them lepers all over again.
The One Who Thanks
But there is the one leper who realizes that he has not just been made clean.
He realizes that he has been touched by God and so, he returns to give thanks to Jesus. This reflects the healing that has happened in his soul as well as in his body.
This leper has faith. Faith is primarily the recognition of the love and compassion of God.
This recognition moves us to give praise and thanks to God. In this, the one leper is a great model for us.
God is in our midst, active in our lives.
But sometimes, like the nine lepers, we are not aware of this. Sometimes our self-centeredness isolates us from one another.
Sometimes our fears and worries trap us. Sometimes our anger dictates our behavior.
Sometimes our skepticism or doubting or questioning becomes an end in itself. Sometimes our misplaced hopes and values lead us away from the divine, the transcendent, away from God.
When all of this is the case, we do not experience God in everyday life. And so, we need to look to the one leper for our lead on this.
We need to approach life with a sense of faith. We are to realize the presence and love of God in the birth of a baby, in the magnificence of creation, in the tenderness of a spouse, in the skill of a doctor, in our own ability to bring life to another through our love and care.
Maybe the bottom line is this: that for no reason other than a love that we cannot even fathom, God has breathed life into us and given many other gifts to us as well. Our only fitting response is to stand humbly before God in quiet thanks.
This gratitude can transform us. It can make so much of life an experience of God’s presence, love, and healing action.