Only One Gave Thanks
28th Sunday Ordinary Time
October 9, 2022
“One of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;”
It is interesting how extreme circumstances can sometimes help us to put aside our differences. A change of plans, even a disaster, even leprosy, can be an opportunity to give thanks to God. When we do this, he frequently opens the floodgates of blessings and peace to us in our disasters and tragedies, great and small, because God can always work things to good in the end.
Normally Jews and Samaritans would not be caught dead hanging around together. Leprosy made this group of strange bed fellows cooperate. They stand at a distance, following what the law asks. They are being obedient as they approach Jesus.
How poignant this image is. In a sense, all of humanity is represented by these ten lepers, who are "at a distance" from God. We, too, cannot find God on our own. The Lord sees and hears their desperate prayer, but "at a distance". In this world, we don't see the Lord directly, but mediated through the sacraments, other people, the Scriptures, our church, the Eucharist, even the poor, but as it were, "at a distance".
Notice that Jesus does not heal these lepers right away. They ask, then Jesus responds. What does he tell them? Go off to show yourselves to the priests! They do set off. Notice they are not healed immediately. In obedience they "go and show themselves to the priests" though as yet nothing has happened to them. What might they be thinking? Were they disappointed in their encounter with Christ? Probably: but these lepers were healed along the way, healed while on the journey, healed while they were not looking, and at a time after they had asked, not right away.
How do I respond when Christ does not answer my prayer right away? Do I give up? Will I go on in faith like these ten lepers did? Everything in the future for these ten lepers depended on one thing: that they be obedient to that one command of Christ even though it looked like it would do no good whatsoever.
How often we can ask God for something, and then fail to notice his answer or give thanks for it because we received our answer "on the way”. I used to keep a diary of every request I made to God, and it was interesting because sometimes answers to our prayers will occur years and years after we have asked. By then we may have forgotten that we had asked, forgotten the one who gave us this blessing. Sometimes our Lord will heal us or answer us "on the way" because there is something we have to learn before we receive this answer. Although I may not notice all the graces God gives me right away, once I do, will I notice? Will I give thanks?