Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers
Reflection on the Gospel of the Twenty-Eight Sunday
Leprosy attacks the body, leaving sores, missing fingers, missing toes, damaged limbs. In many cases, the initial pain of leprosy gives way to something more terrible than that – a loss of sensation in nerve endings, leading to more damage to more body parts. The disease can take 30 years to run its course, and in that time span, entire limbs can simply fall off. It is, assuredly, a most horrible disease. The emotional pain of a leper, however, must have been even worse than the physical pain. He was removed from his family, from his community. There could be no contact, whatsoever, with his children or grandchildren.
In today’s Gospel, 10 lepers were asked by Jesus to go and show themselves to the priest and on their way, they were healed. On their way, a hand reappeared, and tingled with life. A crutch tripped on a filthy rag, as it fell to the ground. The leg was back, healthy, whole, complete. The skin cleared, and the tiny hairs on a forearm turned from snow white to brown. One looked at the other, another looked at the rest, and the screaming started. The smiles broke into cheering, and a sweet madness. They raced off in the distance, not believing that the nightmare was finally over.
But in order for the miracle to happen, these men had to start walking in faith before their circumstances had changed one tiny bit.
Is there a more potent lesson for us than just the attitude of gratitude? You cannot wait until the problems are over to start walking in faith. You cannot put conditions on holy God. You cannot say, “Lord, as soon as there’s enough money, I follow your instructions.” You cannot pray, “Lord, if you’ll just solve this issue in my family, I’ll start to church.” You cannot put conditions on God! Instead, God places a demand for faith on us, before anything at all has changed.
God might say, “Love me despite the disease. Obey me despite the lack of talent, or the lack of resources. Follow me now, despite the depression. Say no to the temptation, while it still is difficult. Praise me in the darkest of nights, and in the worst of circumstances.”