“On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” (Luke 17:11-13)
In this reading Jesus is in the border land, between Galilee and Samaria — between the accepted, and the reviled.
When we find ourselves in that place, spiritually or physically — lost, blind to our path, feeling hopeless — Christ is there to lead us. And that’s where we find the 10 lepers and Jesus in this Gospel reading. As lepers they have been pushed out of society. They have been shunned. They are reviled. They’re left to wander — unseen, forgotten — in this border land.
Jesus found them there, lost to themselves, lost to the world around them, and they cried out: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Jesus uses this separation between the desired (in Galilee) and undesirable (in Samaria) to teach us about how we see with the eyes of this world, and how we’re meant to see with the eyes of the Holy Spirit.
With the eyes of the Holy Spirit, we step into that border land between the desirable and undesirable, and we no longer see desirable and undesirable. We no longer see “us” and “them.” We only see children of God, crying out in a dark, lost world, “Have mercy on us!”
There are lots of examples of this border land in our lives today – the places where we make distinctions between who we accept and who we reject; who is acceptable and who is not; who we exalt and who we revile.
Our society, when we allow it to see with the eyes of this world, doesn’t want to see the homeless man sleeping in the shadow of our church, suffering from drug addiction and mental illness. We don’t like to think about the forgotten in our nursing homes, or the broken and starving family. We don’t like to see the 16-year-old girl, who’s been told by our society a thousand times a day she’s only worth as much as she can be appealing to the eyes of a man, who becomes pregnant chasing that affirmation.
We create borders of comfort between ourselves and these lepers in our society, and in our lives. But, Jesus tramples on those borders. He tears them down. He walks right up to the lepers, he walks right up to us, and says “I see you. I love you. You are clean.”
It is a hard walk, to take up our cross and follow Christ — to be the hands and feet of Christ — in these border lands.
But, St. Paul reminds us: “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us.” To follow Christ, we must take up our cross, and die to this world — die to the borders we’ve created between “us” and “them,” and rise to live in Christ’s Kingdom, where he is reflected and loved in all God’s children.
Let us pray.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.