All 10 were healed, but only one came back to give thanks.
This is this week’s gospel story from Luke about the healing of the 10 lepers. And of course, the one who did return was the most rejected of the rejected, a foreigner. The others were returning to church, that is, to the priests as Jesus commanded them to do. The miracle of healing is what catches our eyes, but the fact that the most rejected one is honored in what the scripture sees as the highlight of the story.
We keep forgetting that those who follow Jesus live in a different realm and another set of values. We live with the mandate to make sure everyone is invited to the banquet feast. We are the ones who stand with the victims and proclaim their worth.
It is easy for us to go to church. It is normal for us to seek personal salvation. But we are called not to just seek our personal salvation, but to go the next step and see the necessity of seeking out the world’s victims and helping to restore their dignity and health. The danger of merely seeking the comfort of our personal salvation is that we too easily forget about the very people that Jesus cared about most.
Why did Jesus eat with the outcasts? Because, he said, the healthy ones do not need a physician, but the sick ones do. Clearly he was concerned about this world and how we care for each other. He was not worried about being contaminated or made ritually unclean, that fear is a hoax from his point of view. He was most critical of those who used religion to isolate themselves from the world’s problems and difficult people.
Religion can be the most insidious institution. In the name of The Holy One, we tacitly allow and manifestly act to victimize those who don’t fit in. We pray for their salvation while avoiding eye contact. We speak about them as being pagans or non-believers. We somehow manage to devalue them to the point of imagining they are less than human and deserve whatever misery crosses their path. How easy, in the name of righteousness, that we justify all sorts of callous inhumanity.
All 10 were healed, one came back to give thanks. Maybe all of humanity is in the process of being healed. Let’s make sure that, with the outcasts, we make the joy of this grace explicit by giving thanks for the grace of healing and restoration of our sacred image.