The Gospel. St. Luke 17:11-19.
AND it came to pass, as Jesus went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
I have returned from block leave, which all of 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade had over the past couple of weeks. My time at home was wonderful, though too short. There just wasn’t enough time to see everyone or do everything. However, I always enjoy returning to the promised land–Alabama. There’s no place like home, as the saying goes.
Having a few days off and being home doesn’t make returning to work easy. Work brings with it the tasks of preparing for deployment, and our time is now short. Work means facing the uncertain and trying to figure out what will happen. It means the future is not clear and the present is filled with unanswered questions.
A Certain Village
In our Gospel passage for today, we see Jesus on a journey. He was travelling to Jerusalem, and he goes through Samaria and Galilee. The passage is unclear where he stops, only calling it “a certain village”. We could sit for a while and propose ideas about where this village may have been. We could make educated guesses, and perhaps even nail down where it was that Jesus stopped. However, that’s not the important point of this passage for today.
We all travel through “certain villages”. On our way to other places, we journey through those villages that are simply there for passing through. The village wasn’t our destination, but we have to pass through it in order to reach our destination on the other side. Because it’s not our destination, we may not know a great deal about it; in fact, it may seem so small and insignificant, we’ve never heard of it before. Maybe it’s not even on the map.
When someone asks me about my hometown, I have to tell them that it’s not actually a town. It’s a wide spot between two towns. The best location I can give is to name its proximity to the nearest city. If you were passing through my little community, you might not even notice it, unless you were stopped by the one red light on the highway. Unless you live there, it-s not a destination–it’s a place you simply pass through.
Life’s journey also brings us to such villages. On the road to fulfilling dreams, we pass through previously-unknown places. Coursing our way toward our final destination, we encounter things unfamiliar, and we tread on uncertain ground. These places are strange, unfamiliar, questionable. Who knows? They may even have lepers! Some people may come out and accost us.
The unknown and uncertain is not comfortable. The unfamiliar makes us sweat. Strangers don’t have our immediate trust, and we are unsure whether to trust them at all.
If you had been passing through that certain village on the same day that Christ did, what would you have seen? There were probably several people travelling with Jesus. Perhaps, there was even a crowd that gathered as he passed through; his reputation preceded him, after all. Apparently, the word went around that he was coming through the place, because the lepers found him and cried out for mercy.
If we’d been there that day, we would have seen Jesus and his fellow travellers. We would have seen the usual villagers going about their business: selling in the marketplace, working in the fields, baking bread in the ovens. We would have also seen the lepers. As required by the Mosaic law, they were standing at a distance from everyone else. They could not get close to others because of the risks of spreading their disease and of making others ceremonially unclean for temple worship. It was common for them to cry out to others passing by, to ensure that others knew not to come too close.
Yet, when the lepers saw Christ, they cried out to him in a different way. Instead of shouts of “Unclean!”, they called to Jesus with cries for mercy. Somehow, they knew that he was the person from whom they could expect something. So they cried out to him for healing. Christ instructed them to go show themselves to the priest, which was the normal ritual for being cured of leprosy; they priest would inspect them and declare them clean if the leprosy had truly left.
If we’d been there, we could have seen all of this. It must have been an amazing sight. Ten men are healed of a dreaded disease. Yet, if we’d not been in this uncertain village, we would never have witnessed the miracle.
See, visits to uncertain village–that is, uncertain places in life–are often accompanied by miraculous things. No matter how far out the place may seem; no matter how strange a place it may be; no matter how unfamiliar it is and how you are unsure of it; you are in a place where the Lord treads.
Christ was there in that certain village–that uncertain village. If for no other reason, he was there to meet ten men. They were men who needed help. They were at the Lord’s mercy. And they realized this. They realized they needed the Lord’s mercy to be healed, and they cried out for it. As David cried out in Psalm 51, the lepers also lifted their voices: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness.”
And what was Christ’s response to their cries of dependence? He gave them instructions and sent them on their way. He healed them of their disease and gave them new vocations; instead of sitting on the edge of the city warning passersby to keep away, these men were now able to return to their families and homes and vocations.
When we find ourselves there, in those uncertain places, let us not forget that God is also there. He has promised never to leave us, and he is always faithful to fulfill his promise. He is simply waiting for our cries for mercy. If we cry out like the lepers, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”, he shall deliver us from trials and temptations and all evil. He shall make us whole and show us the certain way.
And let us be like the one man who, when he had been healed, returned to thank Jesus. The Lord recognized his humility and his grateful heart. So, too, will the Lord greet us when we trust in him; he will also bid us to go on our way, because he is with us. The uncertain villages of life are no longer uncertain because God is there.
If we have faith in him, we can be made whole.