Where are the other nine?

What would you do if you won the lottery? The Colorado Mega Millions jackpot is up to $445 Million.

That is a lot of money. Just imagine what you could do with that much cash. A number of years ago there was a movie with Nicholas Cage and Bridget Fonda titled “it could happen to you”. The premise of the movie was that the good hearted New York City Cop and a Waitress purchase a winning lottery ticket together. The circumstances are convoluted but they end up winning $4 Million. And it all comes down to what do they do with it?

Winning that amount of money could change your life. It could take away stress and worry. That amount of money could allow for new opportunities or possibly second chances at old ones. But, the question still remains, what would you do FIRST?

So maybe it is not the same things but the ten lepers in today’s Gospel sort of won the lottery. In that time in Galilee there was not a lot know about Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy. It was and still is an infectious disease that affected the skin, nerves, eyes and causes disfiguring sores. In Jesus’ time someone that displayed the signs of leprosy was cast out and shunned. They could not come in contact with anyone, not family or friends. They could not work; they could not provide for their family in any way. It was not only a death sentence because of a lack of a cure but also because they could only count of the generosity of others and beg for basic subsistence.

The idea that Jesus, with a word, had made them whole was like winning the lottery. All that they had to do was present themselves to the priests in the temple, they would certify that they were clean and they could go back to family and friends and work and live again.

That simple gesture by Jesus had changed their lives. It had won them the lottery and what was the first thing that they did? They went away dancing! Or so we can only assume. There was probably a little song that went with it. Something like “we are clean, don’t know why but we are clean, oh yeah”.
Well actually that is true for nine of the lepers. One came back. It says, “And 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.” It says that “he thanked Him”.

Is that the first thing that we would do if we won the lottery? Maybe, but is winning the lottery a “falling at the feet of Jesus, giving thanks” kind of thing?

Today’s gospel is not really a winning the lottery story, it is a giving thanks story. And Jesus makes a number of points about this grateful man. First, the 10th leper was not a Jew. And that was a poke in the eye to the Jewish people that were listening to the story. Not only was he the only one to come back to say thank you but he wasn’t even of the “chosen race”. He was a foreigner. And second, where were the rest of the 9? “Ten were cleansed, were they not?

Where are the other nine?” Yeah, hey wait a minute, where are the other guys? “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

The first reading is an interesting companion to this Gospel. Naaman was also a leper, but he was the other kind of leper. He was a wealthy leper. Naaman was the commander of the army of the king of Aram. The story goes that he had heard of the amazing powers of the prophet Elisha from a captive Israeli girl. So, he packed up his whole retinue and went to see him. You have to understand, Naaman had tried everything, so when Elisha told him to go down to the river Jordan and wash himself 7 times, he was a bit underwhelmed.

After being coaxed, Naaman did as he was told, “Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean of his leprosy.” And what did he do? “Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”

Elisha would not except the gift, so Naaman returned home but not before taking two mule-loads of dirt with him so that he could stand on the soil of Israel when he offered his holocausts of thanks giving to the one true God.

So, you see today’s readings aren’t about the lottery, they are not about leprosy, or men of wealth and power they are about saying thank you to our Lord.

When we wake up to a beautiful sunrise, it’s about saying thank you. When we look onto the face of our loved ones, it’s about saying thank you. When we stand before the real presence in the Eucharist, it’s about saying thank you.

And no matter how many times that we say it they will never be enough because He will love us that much more. Before the beginning of time itself, He loved us that much more. Before we were formed in the womb, He loved us that much more. Before we did that stupid thing yesterday and before we even thought about that stupid thing that we were going to do tomorrow, He loved us that much more.

It is impossible for us to truly understand that much love. It is impossible for us to understand the extent of His constancy, His steadfastness, His unwavering Love. But if we try, perhaps we will begin to see that “as (we are) going (we will be) cleansed.” And when we do, the first thing that we have to do …. The very first thing that we have to do is, “return, glorifying God in a loud voice; and fall at the feet of Jesus and thank him.”

All that we can hope is that when we do, He will turn to us and say, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”

Amen, Alleluia

LK 17:11 – 19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And 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.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“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.”

October,9 2022

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