What would it take to completely convince you that you are totally dependent on God’s love? What would it take to get you to thank him for every breath; to praise him for every sunrise? How about an instant cure for a painful, deadly disease that had destroyed your body and made you a wretched outcaste? Think that would get your attention? Well, it wasn’t quite good enough for nine out of the ten lepers in this week’s gospel. Jesus cured them and they went on their merry way … presto, changeo… from outcastes to ingrates in an instant. No “Thank you.” No “God be praised.” Not even a “See you later, Jesus.”
They say that in hula dancing, every motion has a meaning. That goes double for the gospel. Jesus is not wandering about curing random bands of lepers. His every word, his every action is deliberately for our instruction and redemption. His humanity is moved to compassion. But his divinity fashions a lesson for countless generations of Christians to follow.
What is Jesus telling us? Plainly, we are the spiritual lepers of this lesson. We have been infected by original sin. But through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are cured of sin’s disfiguring, deadly disease. In Baptism we are cleansed. We are set free from infirmity. But what do we do with our freedom? Do we thank God every day? Do we cling to his love? Do we follow him? According to this gospel, the odds are nine-to-one that we don’t. Most likely, we live in this world and for this world. Like the lepers, we get on with our lives oblivious of God’s blessings. As world-class ingrates, we may ritually pray, but rarely have a meaningful conversation with God. “Please, God” and “Thank you, Jesus:” can become routine formalities, to be rattled off in recitation or even omitted entirely.
Worse than bad manners, failing to sincerely thank God is the lost opportunity of a lifetime. At best, the lepers had their bodies repaired for a few score years. We have been given eternal life. When we thank God, he doesn’t say: “You’re welcome.” He makes us welcome… welcome to the family of the faithful… welcome to the kingdom… welcome to live in his love. And the more we thank him, the more we praise him; the more he makes us welcome. Unlike the lepers, we are not the beneficiaries of a random miracle. We are not lucky strangers. Christ gave his earthly life for our eternal life. We are his beloved. We live in him. He lives in us. Thank you, Jesus.
Committed to a vocation that focuses on encountering God in the midst of everyday life, the Rev. David Sellery serves as an Episcopal priest that seeks to proclaim the good news of God in Christ in worship, pastoral care, education, stewardship, and congregational growth.