By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke, 17:11-19
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
In today’s reading, a distinction is made between being healed and being well. Ten lepers call out to Jesus “Have mercy on us!”, and Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priest. On their way there, they are healed of their leprosy. Leprosy is contagious, and so according to the law, the afflicted were quarantined, cut off from the rest of the population. If a priest gives the OK, the former leper can then re-enter society and worship.
But on the way there, the Samaritan turns back. Has he not been in quarantine that long? Doesn’t he have loved ones he misses, or a livelihood to return to? Perhaps this foreigner doesn’t worship God so doesn’t care about re-entering the temple.
The latter assumption rings false, for he is the one who returns to Jesus to give thanks. The Samaritan is the only one who recognizes the one true God in his midst and turns back. The other nine are healed, go to the priest, give thanks to God in his temple, and then maybe stop by the grocery store on the way home. The outsider is the one who drops everything and prostrates himself at Jesus’ feet, and because of this, it is the Samaritan who is not only healed, but also made well. His body was made clean, but now his soul is saved.
In the King James Version, Jesus says “go thy way: thy faith has made thee whole.” When we fail to drop everything and glorify God for the marvelous works he has performed in our life, when our first impulse is to get on with our earthly lives rather than to turn back and fall to our knees in gratitude, our lives cannot be whole. To fully heal the sickness within us, to bind up what is broken, we must return to the only one who can heal us body and soul: our Lord, the Great Physician.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Salisbury (England), the Rt. Rev. Nicholas Holtam
Diocese of Dunedin (Aotearoa NZ & Polynesia), the Rt. Rev. Steven Benford
Christ Church, Tyler, Texas