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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fr. Bob Warren's Week Reflection from Franciscan Friars of Atonement: Ten Lepers

Franciscan Friars
Ten Lepers
(Luke 17:11-19)
There is a certain irony and pathos in our gospel. We have ten lepers, but only nine were Jews. The odd man was a Samaritan. He was unwelcome in Jerusalem, uncomfortable in its temple. As St. John's gospel tells us, Jews did not share things in common with Samaritans. This Samaritan was welcome only to the nine Jews because they shared Hansen's disease... they were lepers.
Jewish law said that lepers were to be kept outside of the camp. All ten were outcasts. All ten huddled together on the margin of two societies, or as Luke puts it, along the borders of Samaria and Galilee. The scene is ironic and pathetic because only the Samaritan returned from his healing to Jesus, the Jew. Only the Samaritan came back to say "Thank You!" Ten said "Please." One said "Thank You." Thanks for removing my leprosy, my alienation from the human race, for restoring me to human society. Most importantly, thanks for the faith that removed my alienation from God, restoring me to His divine friendship.
Jesus' parting sentence is unforgettable. "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" Then He said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you." Your faith has brought you salvation.
Jesus broke all kinds of rules. He moved close to lepers. He touched them. He even cured them on the Sabbath. Always, His first concern was not law, but people. Not religion, but life and love. This is the only place in the gospel that we find Jesus insisting on the duty of gratitude, of saying thank you. When we go to Mass we celebrate the Eucharist, which means "thanksgiving." But it is only a genuine thanksgiving if we, ourselves, become Eucharists.
You see, we still have lepers today. We all have them. People that you and I might feel uncomfortable with, people we have forgotten, people whom we do not care to know about. People we keep at a distance, who we would rather keep outside the camp. In our modern day society, the aging are often isolated. They live alone, are even shunned. In some cultures, the elderly are honored and esteemed. They are the elders of the land, the wise ones.
I think we need a new beatitude. Blessed are those who seek out the elderly and share life with them. We have made them lepers long enough. Perhaps, there are others with whom we feel uncomfortable—like those struggling with problems of alcohol and drugs. Or the many divorced people trying to put their lives back together. Perhaps we feel uncomfortable with our neighbor who does not have a job. Only we know who our lepers are, the ones we keep at a distance, outside our camp.
In our gospel, Jesus does more than feel sorry for the leper. He moves from concern to action. But Jesus does not walk our streets. We do. We only have to remind ourselves that Jesus can only do this today if we do it. It is us who have to reach out and touch, and not just offer a sign of sympathy. Usually, we can find a host of good reasons for not getting involved—very human reasons that can imprison us inside ourselves. I am afraid of being rejected. I have enough problems of my own. I am terribly shy. I had a rough day. A thousand and one excuses and some of them might even stand up in court. But they are not very Christian.
What is a Christian? Someone who prays? Someone who is baptized? Who worships God? Yes, a Christian is all this and more. Jesus told us what Christians are meant to be. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. We are the leaven in the bread. Didn't He also tell you to feed the hungry? Visit the sick, the poor and the dying? Because, you see, compassion is just another name for Christian.
St. Paul tells us that in the end, only three things will last—faith, hope and love—but the greatest of these is love. So when you finish reading this today, say a prayer of thanks. Give thanks for the ordinary things in life that we, so often, take for granted. Your life, your faith, your family and loved ones. But most of all, thank God for His greatest gift to you, His Divine Son. The Son you can receive each time you come forward to receive the Eucharist. The Son who will heal you no matter who you are or what you have done.
Fr. Robert Warren
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Robert Warren Signature
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Spiritual Director
P.S. Beginning on October 19th, the Friars of the Atonement will celebrate two very important celebrations of faith. The friars will honor St. Anthony of Padua in a Special Novena of Masses beginning on October 19th and continue on with our second Special Novena of Masses celebrating the Feast of St. Jude beginning October 28th. Join with us by sending your most heartfelt petitions to me now. I pray that St. Anthony and St. Jude bless you with their loving patronage for all the good you will do in Christ's name.
Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
P.O. Box 301, Garrison, NY 10524
For more information, call us at 888-720-8247.

Fr. B

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