Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 10, 2010 - Year C
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis S. Hankins
And Then They Met Jesus
And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us."
John the Baptist needed assurance. We all do sometimes. He sent messengers to ask Jesus a question. "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" they asked. And they witnessed Jesus healing the blind and the lame. The deaf were cured and the dead were raised. Even the poor received the good news of the Kingdom and the lepers were cleansed. Then Jesus told the emissaries, "Go tell John what you have seen and heard."
There you have it. The lepers are cleansed. Never would a Jew think of touching a leper. But Jesus did. One time a man full of leprosy fell on his face and begged Jesus saying, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." And stretching out his hand, Jesus touched him and said, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left the afflicted man.
In the scriptures, leprosy might include a number of skin disorders to full blown leprosy. The separation the leper experienced was tempered only by the friendship and community among other lepers. But the separation from family and friends made the pain of leprosy even more intense.
Sin separates us from God. It separates us from each other. Any number of sinful acts testify to the pain our sins inflict. Adultery is painful. Pornography like leprosy eats away everything that is good – leaving behind indescribable pain. Abortion stops one heart and breaks another. Alcohol abuse and prescription drugs used wrongly numb the abuser and those near to us. Pain begets even more pain.
Listen carefully and you will hear someone asking, "Can someone just stop the pain, the loneliness, the desperation – this living hell? Can someone make me whole again? Can someone give me any hope?" These are questions many have in common. As we are gathered here today, let's believe that Jesus is near. Today let's believe we will meet Jesus like the lepers did.
For the ten lepers one day was no different from another. No one special had come within shouting distance of their community for a long time. Rumors came and rumors evaporated much like their skin and bones. Except one tale survived. And something about today is different than yesterday. Someone catches their wind and yells to the distant lepers, "Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming!"
There is a prophet in Israel. In Naaman's time it was Elisha. In the Gospel today it is Jesus. The simplicity of it all is the stuff of joy and healing and thanksgiving. "Dip seven times over here in the Jordan River, and you will be cured," the prophet Elisha proclaims. "Go show yourselves to the priests," Jesus tells the ten lepers. Naaman goes back to Damascus with new skin. The ten lepers begin their trip for the 1,000th time in hope of being proclaimed clean. And then it happens. It happens as they are going. All ten of the lepers are cleansed. Every last one of them is healed.
One of them, a Samaritan, stops in his tracks. Something is different. He counts his fingers and toes. He caresses his face. Joy erupts from his thankful heart. Turning around he runs as fast as he can. He falls on his face at Jesus' feet and gives him thanks and praise. Ten were cleansed. One is grateful. Only one.
But it is the Samaritan we can be like. We can give Jesus what he gave Jesus. Every Lord's day we can come to this table to participate in the Great Thanksgiving. In this Eucharistic meal we meet Jesus. He is the same Jesus the leprous Samaritan met. He is the same Jesus we approach with praise and thanksgiving as he did. The opposite is also true. If we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. So like the Samaritan, let's lift up our hearts to him who loves us and forgives us and gives us a new song.
With worthy and thankful hearts let us receive the body and blood of our Lord. In this memorial of our redemption the Lord reveals his saving power. By this deep communion with Christ, you can return home a new person. Your kids will see a new daddy. A new understanding of sacrificial love will permeate your marriage. Perhaps your colleagues may ask what is different about you. What will your answer be? You might say, "In the middle of all I thought was important, I was missing something, and then I met Jesus."
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com