28th OT C ~ "The Tenth Leper" ~ Susan McGurgan


They had been cursed by God.

Everyone knew that!

They were visited by a plague that did not kill,

but never seemed to end.

Their families mourned them as dead,

though their bodies lived on.


The ten lepers who met Jesus on that day on the borderland

between Samaria and Galilee

lived as ghosts.

They wandered in the shadows

and moved along the brambly edges and rough margins.


In the eyes of the world,

they were lost.

Abandoned.

Forgotten.

Invisible.


Whatever faith or desperation drove them

to beg Jesus for mercy,

those ten lepers got everything they asked for

and more.

A new start.

An invitation to reclaim their lives.

A chance to become visible once more.


And in their joy,

nine ran obediently to do as they were told--

to see the priests and receive a verdict of

clean

or unclean.

And as they ran, lesions vanished.

Scarred tissue was made whole.

Color returned.

Feeling came back into limbs that had been numb for years.

Old bandages fell away as new skin emerged.


Nine raced ahead to embrace the future.

One

turned back in gratitude.


The tenth leper returned to fall at the feet of Jesus,

praising God and giving thanks.


Now this same leper was a Samaritan,

a foreigner,

a non-Jew,

an outsider.

He was a man that observant Jews regarded

as someone blind to the truth.

Despite this,

he saw clearly what the other nine did not—

that his encounter with Christ

called him into a life of gratitude.


“The other nine, where are they?” Jesus asked.

Where are they?


Biblical gratitude—

the gratitude we see in the life of the tenth leper,

is more than courtesy or respect.

It is more than remembering to send a thank you card

or a sign that your Mama raised you right.


The tenth leper returned,

not because he was polite,

not because he was kind,

but because his vision sharpened and his horizon grew.

He returned

because he encountered the Living God.

He knew from that moment,

no matter what struggles he might face

or what challenges he might endure,

he would live his life in gratitude.

He knew from that moment,

his life would forever incline toward hope.


The tenth leper is more than just a lucky guy

singled out for a miracle.

He is more than a joyous illustration in a Bible Story Book

or a symbol of God’s mercy.

The tenth leper is a model for our own discipleship.

He shows us how we, too, must respond

to an encounter with Christ.


In a moment of awareness and conversion,

he stopped and turned.

He consciously accepted and acknowledged the offer of the gift.

He realized this gift placed him in relationship with the giver.

And he knew, somehow,

that this relationship

was even more important than the gift.

He threw himself down in adoration,

and rose praising God and giving thanks.


And then,

he was then sent back—

sent out into the community

where his gratitude and praise would continue to spill over,

blessing and gifting others.


The tenth leper teaches us our own response

to an encounter with Christ.

This stance of gratitude changes everything—

for the tenth leper

and for us.


It is no accident that in Greek,

the word, Eucharist, Eucharista,

means thanksgiving;

gratitude.

The Body and Blood we share

is a sacrifice of Thanksgiving—

a celebration of praise and gratitude

to the God who created us in love.

As people of the Eucharist;

people of Thanksgiving,

gratitude should be the very air we breathe—

the heartbeat we dance to.


The tenth leper fell on his face in the dirt before Jesus,

witnessing to this truth. ‘


Like all true things,

living in gratitude is not simple,

or naïve

or easy.

There are days when we will struggle

to see beyond our pain,

our fears,

our losses.


There are days when gift,

and encounter,

and hope itself seems distant and dim.

There are days when we just hurt.

Days when we are captive to sorrow, and sin, and regret.

Days when we feel our brokenness pierce us with jagged edges.

We will always carry the baggage of new scars

and live in the folds of old wounds.


But recent research in the areas of neuroscience,

psychology,

biology,

and spiritual development,

teach us that when we actively choose to practice gratitude—

despite our struggle and doubt—

it will make a profound and lasting difference in our lives.

There is a scientifically proven

concrete

intimate

dynamic relationship

between gratitude and hope;

between naming thanks and claiming victory.


Gratitude is like a muscle

that can be exercised and strengthened over time.

The more effort we make to feel and speak gratitude today,

even when it’s hard,

the more a feeling of hope will bubble up spontaneously in the future,

when we need it the most.

It’s not magic,

or New Age thought,

or a sideways version of the Prosperity Gospel.

It is how God created us.


The tenth leper didn’t have access to the latest cognitive research.

He didn’t have a subscription to Psychology Today

or participate in double blind neurological studies.

He didn’t know what researchers are discovering

about the organic connection

between expressions of gratitude

and the generation of hope.


But this man

whose name is known only to God,

was wise as well as lucky.

He knew what modern science is just now discovering—

That gratitude is powerful,

and transformational,

and profound.

It affects our mental,

physical,

emotional,

and spiritual health

in ways that lead us deeply into the heart of God.


Somehow, the tenth leper knew that praise and thanksgiving

were vital for his complete restoration.

He knew that to embrace the new and abundant life he was given

He must also embrace a life of gratitude,

spilling over into his community.


This same abundant life,

this same powerful blessing,

This same “Eucharista” of praise and thanksgiving

is offered to us all.

It is our heritage to claim--

an amazing gift

from a generous God who loves us beyond all measure.


It is a bold move to turn back in the road,

fall on our faces,

and offer God thanksgiving and praise

especially when hope seems far away.

Many days,

it is an act of raw courage--

an act defying social convention,

and sometimes even,

an act that defies our own instincts.


But stopping in our tracks to give thanks

is a choice that we can—

and must—

make every day.

It is a habit we can cultivate.

It is a gift we can continuously unwrap.

It is a way of living that will sustain us,

whatever pain or hardship life brings.


Becoming the tenth leper is not a one-time decision.

It is a daily

and sometimes hourly decision

to view life through the lens of gratitude,

despite the gravitational pull we feel toward fear,

or envy,

or despair.


Living in gratitude is risky,

so as men and women of faith,

we must also be men and women of courage.

We cannot be afraid to challenge ourselves;

to get our hands dirty;

to learn something new;

to go where things are difficult;

to fall on our faces in the dust and proclaim thanks,

even as we weep.


Fortunately,

we never undertake this work alone.

Our Holy Father tells us,

The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk. Whenever we embrace hope and take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.”

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