Peace and grace to you all!
Naman the Syrian reminds us of those who have a deep need for help but are reluctant to listen to what will be a remedy. Upon following prophetic advice, they discover God’s attentive, healing love.
The healing of the 10 lepers is the Gospel reading for the US National Feast of Thanksgiving. Lepers in ancient times suffered at multiple levels. They suffered loss by devastating health change, loss of livelihood, mobility and perhaps most crucial was loss of being part of a community that cares about them. Imagine what that would feel like.
Some parallels of loss today might be immigrants living in the US without Citizenship status. They have lost their home in search of a better life and have largely been rejected by the local residents. People who have lost employment or those impacted by permanent health changes. Someone who lost a child, a spouse or been divorced. It might also include our loss of a sense of security because of terrorist attacks or random violence and crime. There are also fears of pandemic flu or lethal virus outbreaks. Those who suffer from PTSD and cannot break free of Hyper-vigilance and eruptive triggers destroying relationships and their own families, abuse survivors who have been unwept and unloved. We all have some loss in common with the Lepers in the story.
The next part of the story includes a sense of journey and a passage of time. They were not healed immediately but they discovered personal healing while they were on their way.
I think that this is realistic for most people. Yes there are those stories of miraculous events when healing happened immediately but those are few and infrequent.
More often, we ourselves plod along the journey of life and cry out to God, like the lepers, for help and deliverance from oppressive situations, abuse, addiction, hardened, unchanging reactions, brokenness and the pain of sin: “Jesus, Master have pity on us!” We keep calling out until we are tired of it and we wonder if our cry is ever heard.
This Gospel story extends to us a strong and real hope: yes healing does happen! It is possible! It may require plunging into a program or engaging in personal counseling on several occasions but it does come. Sometimes we discover it within ourselves while we are caring for others around us. Sometimes it comes imperceptibly over time and we change a little as we go but it does come and Jesus always hears us.
One of my favorite parts of the story is the gratitude shown by the one who returns. I think this is the one who was most thoughtful. Remember the movie “Little Big Man” with Dustin Hoffman? The scene near the end when an Indian, Old Lodge Skins, who has lost his physical health, is going blind. He knows he is dying, so he prays: “O Lord God, I thank you for having made me a human being. I thank you for giving me life, for giving me eyes to see and enjoy your world. But most of all, Lord, I thank you for my sickness and my blindness because I have learned more from these than from my health and from my sight.”
There are losses and pain in life but there are also new experiences ahead, new loves and joys, new hopes beyond grief. The final healing is to be cured of ingratitude. Blessings to you! +++ Fr. Peter