Your Faith Has Saved You
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost year C
Try to place yourself in this scene.
Ten persons with leprosy are approaching.
A mix of fear and compassion? A touch of repulsion, if we’re honest?
This is Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem, to the Cross.
This episode, this encounter, if I may offer a lens from the outset,
announces the love poured forth at the Cross.
Ten pained, physically deformed persons are the first to greet Jesus
as he enters this village somewhere between Samaria and Galilee.
The hospitality committee!
Why do they keep a distance, however, as they call out?
Because persons with leprosy were ostracized--by Law.
After a long description in Leviticus 13 of “defiling skin diseases”,
the following is declared in verses 45 and 46:
The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes
and let the hair of his head be dishevelled;
and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’
He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.
Leprosy is contagious
--and was considered a manifestation of sin and divine malediction.
Thankfully, since then, our theology has been deepened, nuanced, refined!
They cry for mercy, not explicitly for healing,
suggesting no sense of entitlement.
They simply want relief—in whatever form this Master might give it.
An important disposition of heart in our relationship with God...
Jesus, of course, responds, but, surprisingly, does not come close.
He had previously come close and, without hesitation, touched a leper:
Why the distance here?!?
Who more than these persons yearn to be touched?
Who more than Jesus knows their need for touch?
Perhaps it is that each healing is unique, uniquely personal.
Apparently, here, no need for conversation or gesture.
To their cry of distress and trust in His mercy,
Jesus says: Go and show yourselves to the priests.
Not terribly reassuring nor seemingly merciful.
The priests are not exactly bastions of mercy.
Enforcers of the law that makes of these persons outcasts!
These persons will offer a compelling testimony.
But there is more, discovered in considering that Jesus gives an order:
Go…to the priests.
An order is an invitation to obedience.
Love for God always entails obedience.
Why? Because God is, shall we say, really big (!), i.e. really intelligent.
Obedience, which leads to following,
entails acquiescence of the mind to and trust of the heart in someone bigger.
In giving an order, Jesus invites a deeper opening of mind and heart.
Jesus invites profound cooperation
—which, by the way, expresses Jesus’ great trust in them.
They obey, and on the way, are healed.
That they be healed on the way, and not in the presence of the priests,
It seems to reveal that more important than their important testimony,
is the gift to them of deeper opening of mind and heart.
There is indeed more than health and dignity restored.
There is divine intimacy.
This is about conversion not simply about healing.
we only really see this in the person in whom we might least expect it.
—which testifies amazingly to the power and gratuitousness of divine love.
The ten lepers were “buddies” for a time.
After their healing, however, that which they have in common gone,
a previous social distinction re-emerges.
They are no longer ten leprous buddies, but nine Jews and one Samaritan.
The latter remains a social outcast—no longer because of his physical leprosy but because of his “spiritual leprosy”.
As Samaritan, he is an outcast.
However, Jesus reveals that, in Him, these distinctions
don’t really mean anything: “neither Jew or Greek (or Samaritan!)…”
This one, “furthest” in a sense, enters most intimately into relationship.
Now, Jesus gives one “condition” for healing and conversion,
a condition not determined by our social distinctions.
A prerequisite to and already an expression of love.
The “outcast” seems to have been the most willing
and receives the gift most deeply.
Jesus closes the encounter by saying,
“Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus is the one who makes well, but there is always willing cooperation.
Saint Augustine (+430) tells us,
“God who created you without you, will not save you without you.”Even though a gift, by faith, we willingly cooperate.
Let us “get up and go”,
knowing that, as we journey by Jesus, with Jesus and in Jesus,
“if we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”
(second reading: II Timothy 2:13)
You belong to Him and He holds you tightly.
We have no reason to fear and every reason to hope.