Return or Realize
Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary time year C
“Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” These words from Jesus sound familiar because we have heard them before after other miracles, but this time is a little different. If you notice, Jesus does not say this after their initial cry, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us.” This would have been the equivalent point in the other miracles stories when we would have heard the command to go in peace because our faith has saved us. Instead Jesus tells them to present themselves to the priest. This is a reference to the Law of Moses. Moses told the people that they must present themselves to the priest so that he may pronounce them clean so that they may reenter the community. On the way to the priest one of the lepers “realizes” that he was healed. This particular one then “returns” to Jesus and gives thanks. It is this act which Jesus points to as the faith that saves.
Here we have just been presented with two models of faith. I think that the easiest way to understand these two ways is through prayer. The first is the prayer of the ten lepers who cry out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us.” This is the type of faith where we only pray when we are absolutely forced to pray. We have been living our lives as if everything depends on us, because deep down we really do believe that it all depends on us. We then are faced with a moment when our best efforts are no longer good enough. For the group on ten in the gospel today it is leprosy. For us it may be our health, financial security, physical safety, or family. There are an infinite number of times in our life when we have run out of options and our last resort is prayer. You know those moments in your life better than I do. The gospel shows us that our prayer is heard and is answered. The difference comes not in the prayer, but in our response to our prayer being heard. Nine of the ten continued on the same path. Only one returned. The nine, after being healed put God back in his box until the next moment when they need Him. One of them had a different response.
There are two important words in the gospel today. The first is the one that we have translated as “realized”. This word in the Greek is eidon which means to see, that is to look and to understand. All of the lepers were presented with the same evidence, but only one “saw”. He looked with the eyes of faith and was able to see what was present the whole time. All of them encountered the same Jesus; all of them were healed by the same Jesus, but only one allowed himself to see who Jesus is. He was able to see the kingdom of God present in the world around him. The second word is “returned” which would be more accurately translated as “turned back”. It is the same word that is used for conversion. When the tenth leper turned back, he was not only returning to give thanks to the person who healed him, but was allowing his life to be transformed. He no longer continued on the same road as the other nine, but turned back to God, to follow Jesus. This is the faith that saves.
I believe that many of us have had experiences where we have been healed because we are here in this place together. What are we doing here if we are not trying to be followers of Christ? But, today I would invite you to open yourselves so that healing can go deeper. I would like to propose that there are ten areas of your life modeled after then ten lepers that need healing. One of those moments I have brought us here. For me, the moment I decided to enter the seminary was one of those moments when I turned over a part of my life to God. Since then I have discovered there have been other areas that I have been holding on to and turning over to God. Maybe it is our will. We want to hold onto our plans and expectations. Maybe it is our possessions. Instead of us possessing them, they posses us. Maybe it is our mind, freedom, or our sexuality. You know what area of your heart that you are afraid to let God in. Let down your guard because he takes nothing away from you and gives you everything. God desires our whole heart so let us give Him the remaining 9/10ths.