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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Learning from the Despised

"One of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him." Lk 17: 15-16

It can take a while to realize how present God is, especially during times of struggle. So concerned with feeling our way through the dark rooms of confusion, anger and hurt, we often forget to notice or thank people who walk quietly with us. Good friends don't expect a thank you and are embarrassed when we express our gratitude, but they deserve our appreciation.

Imagine the emptiness lepers felt in the ancient world. Shunned as unclean, they lived on the edges of cities like animals, hoping someone would show them pity. When Jesus assures them they need not fear the priests, they hurry off in the hope that they might rejoin their families and friends. Even when they realize that Jesus has healed them, they don't stop to thank him but rush to pick up their lives again. We understand this instinctively, and many commentators suggest they returned later to thank Jesus, but Jesus uses their initial ingratitude to teach us.

Samaritans were despised by the Jews. Expected to defend Jerusalem against invaders from the north, the Samaritans not only did not fight for the Holy City, they intermarried with their conquerors and eventually built their own temple, thus incurring the wrath of the neighbors to the south. When Jesus lauds the gratitude of the Samaritan leper, he challenges everyone to look not at where a person comes from, but how he lives as a child of God.

Today, be grateful for God's forgiveness.

Who are the people from whom you expect little?

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