Reflection on Luke 17:11-19
It has been hard, this exile. None of the lepers have seen family in years. Contagion has severed natural bonds yet has overcome division: despite deep-seated animosity, Jewish and Samaritan lepers live together without strife. Not that it is a happy life, but they do their best to look after each other. Why bother about religious differences anyway, when you aren’t allowed near any kind of holy place? Food, dealing with sickness, avoiding crowds—this is the order of their daily existence.
Who first has the idea to intercept Jesus is hard to tell. The ten lepers are on the outskirts of a village when they notice Jesus approaching, surrounded by a crowd of people. The men start talking all at once. “I think that’s him. He’s reported to have healed a lot of people.”
“We should go ask him if he’ll
“We’ll never get near enough…”
“Let’s just try.”
The enthusiastic voices prevail, and the lepers stand astride the road, awaiting Jesus’ approach.
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” they cry.
Plenty of people in the crowd hang back, fear on their faces. Not Jesus. He walks right up to the lepers and says, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”
After a moment’s hesitation, they turn and practically break into a run. Should they try the synagogue first or the priest’s home?
One man stops. He is suddenly struck by the realization that he feels strong and well. His thoughts turn back to Jesus. His companions hardly notice him wheeling around and running the other direction. Returning, the man falls at Jesus’ feet and pours out words and tears of gratitude.
* * *
Gratitude to God—it is so easily forgotten in the daily round, sometimes even in the major events of life. Yet, as St. Paul says, “What do you possess that you have not received?” (1 Cor. 4:7). If we receive everything from God—life, sustenance, grace…the list can go on—should we not be grateful for everything? Not as slaves, in dutiful submission to their master, but as children, responding with love to Love. When a gift is freely and lovingly given, the giver wants nothing but our joy. He desires no other repayment than thankfulness.
The movement of this healed Samaritan leper should be ours as well. We should be quick to “run” to Jesus with thankfulness in our hearts. Even when surrounded by difficulties, trials, sufferings, we still have so much for which we can be grateful. I was reminded of this the other day upon encountering a homeless man in a wheelchair who told me, “Every day when I open my eyes, I say, ‘Thank you, Lord, for another day.’” To be honest, I was called on by this. It was a good reminder that I should be more aware of the Lord’s daily blessings.
So, as we celebrate this Thanksgiving Day, even amid the trials and sufferings of this time, let us recall the many gifts God has given us and pours upon us. And let us run to Him with hearts full of gratitude and love.
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR