March 5, 2014
Rui Vale de Sousa/PhotoXpress
The Other Nine Lepers
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.
In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus meets 10 lepers as he travels to Jerusalem. He sends them on their way with the exhortation to show themselves to the priests. All of them are cured on the way, but only one, a Samaritan, returns to thank Jesus. Many of us probably feel good about the Samaritan, and are critical at the lack of gratitude on the part of the other nine. But I have come to believe these nine lepers have received a bum rap, which is not fair.
Let me speak on behalf of the nine. Notice what is said about the one who returns. “He realized he was cured.” That’s a key word: realize. When the Samaritan realized he was cured, it meant that he understood something totally new. Something became real to him. It was that Jesus was truly someone special—more than healer. He fell at Jesus’ feet, which was an act of great reverence. In a sense, the Samaritan was touched with the grace of faith.
Followers of Jesus
But what about the other nine? Keep in mind they were delirious from being healed. Who wouldn’t be? Actually, they were simply following Jesus’ command and directive: “Go show yourselves to the priests.” They were, in fact, obeying him. They might have thought Jesus would be upset if they returned to him. In truth, we must say they were obedient to Jesus.
But let’s go further. There is nothing said in the Gospel, but we can assume that one or all were sure that Jesus was truly someone special. I’d like to think that, several months later when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, they did become his disciples. Isn’t it true that there are situations when a deeper understanding of something within us needs a bit of time to mature?
Moments of Grace
Many times in our lives, we don’t come to the realization of a grace happening until a while later. Something might have touched our hearts at one time, but it is only when something else happens that we come to understand what that moment truly meant. For Peter, it was sin—his denial of Jesus—that brought him to his knees and changed his life.
How many times in our lives do we look back and grasp an understanding about a situation that, at the time it occurred, seemed to go right over our head? Then, all of a sudden, its meaning comes home to us and we understand the hand of God working in our lives. It is then that we say, “Thank you, Lord, for what you did at that moment in my life 10 years ago.”
What is so wonderful is that God’s blessings are not dependent on whether we immediately say, “Thank you, Lord.” We may not even be aware of that graced moment. Later, like those nine lepers, we may come to realize the significance. As we say, “Better late than never.”
Readers respond to Friar Jeremy Harrington's February E-spiration, Musing: Finding the Room Within
Dear Mia: God shows himself to you in your children and your work—as well as in your inner room. Thanks! Friar Jeremy
Dear Laurie: “Peace beyond peace”—I love the description! It’s obvious you are always ready to open the door when God knocks—even on the steps on a snowy night. Friar Jeremy
Dear Sean: Thanks for the encouragement. I’m open to your suggestion for topics. Friar Jeremy
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