When the ten lepers in today’s Gospel approached Jesus, they were not looking for a cure.
They simply wanted to be acknowledged by Jesus in their plight.
That wanted to be accepted.
Because of their condition the lepers stood some way off from Jesus to shout,
“Have mercy on us!”
They were the untouchables of society, always on the fringes of a community and shunned by everyone.
Through His actions, Jesus showed His followers the importance of accepting and embracing those who live on the fringes, those who are shunned, those who have become the untouchables.
He walked to them and spoke to them, treating them with all the respect that any human being deserves. His words gave them the ability and the confidence to re-enter society.
For nine of them that might have been the end of the story; we do not know what happened to them.
Perhaps they were so shocked that they forgot to say thank you. But from the tone of the passage it seems that they took what was on offer and revealed their ingratitude by their hard-hearted response.
But there was another way, one of the former lepers, on seeing what had happened to him, was filled with praise for God. Jesus’ love and acceptance had touched him at more than a superficial level. It had changed his heart, and he wanted everyone to know about God’s mercy to him.
The response of this one man was what Jesus hoped would be the response of all the others. Their inability to see what had really happened to them saddened Jesus, and His words reveal His humanity, His capacity to be disappointed, “The other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and praise God except this foreigner?”
He didn’t want thanks for Himself. But wanted the lepers to acknowledge the mercy and love of His Father.
Jesus healed people not simply for the sake of it, but in order to show them how much God loved them.
It was only the Samaritan, one of the many despised by the Jews, who came back to thank Jesus. Once again, we are reminded that the healing power of Jesus extends to all.
There are few lepers around today perhaps, but in our parishes, there may be many who feel shunned. There may be many who feel unwelcome and isolated.
We are called to embrace those who feel they are outsiders, to give them confidence to be active members of our community. WE are called to accept people, not exclude them.
At this Harvest time, where we share in God’s abundance of Creation and the abundance of His love, what sort of response might we give?
Are we like the majority of the healed lepers, taking for granted the food and friends that we have, not bothering to give thanks to He who provided them?
Or, are we going to be like the one leper, who recognised the gift of love and mercy and grace that God gives us each and every day, and praise Him who loves us without limit?