Reflections on the story of the 10 lepers

Jesus walked the border between Galilee and Samaria
A No-Man’s land – far from shrine or temple
the in-between dangerous space
where demons and robbers lurk,
The desperate sick find pitiful refuge
And miracles happen.

Ten lepers – no labels – no distinction
– a tangled mass of abandoned bodies
Too sick for their village,
Too ill for social niceties
(Like who is in and who out)
Nobodies, wanted by neither camp
Finding company in their misery.

They cry out for mercy to all who pass
Most hurry on,
Some drop coins,
But One stops and says from afar
“Have yourselves examined!”

In a throw-away bit of divine power,
A temptation toward trust.
Jesus, the One, doesn’t say that they are healed.
He just refers them to the priest
The local health inspector who will
Poke and prod and scan and query,
And let them back into town
or boot them out again
Into the craggy, ravaged wilderness
To die.

A shock! They do as told,
These ailing, ragged folk
They move on in trust,
(we are not told otherwise)
And by rights should have been known as
The Ten Faithful Lepers
For so trusting their healer

But on the way, they see that spots and scales and sores
have vanished.
Overjoyed and relieved, they rush off,
Desperate to see their families,
To kiss their wives and children,
To eat like human beings,
To sleep in warmth,
To restart abandoned projects,
To rejoin the old circle broken by unwelcomed illness.

They go, all with a place to go, a town to call home,
Family, neighbors , friends.
All but one, the Samaritan,
the Outsider of Outsiders.
Then, did he suddenly stop?
Realizing in a sudden, shameful burst that
Once his friends had gone home,
he would no longer be welcome in their company?

What priest would ratify his cleanness?
Who would send him home?
Did he slow his steps then
Letting the nine speed off over the rocky ground?
Did he stop then, wondering where to go next?
Was it then that his thoughts turned to his healer?
Was it only with the way forward blocked
And loneliness tugging at his heart
That he made his way, more thoughtful now
To the one who brought him this blessing?

And so, a lesson
When the way forward is barred
There are worse things than to turn
Our minds and hearts back to Jesus
Who waits, patient, not blaming,
And ready to accept the gratitude.
Give him thanks for the mercy shown
and the blessing given
Receive the reward of your own trust
and the cure
that goes deeper
than mere physical healing.