"We can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by the society -- completely forgotten, completely left alone. That is the greatest poverty of the rich countries.”-- Mother Teresa
Gospel Text: (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."
Until recently, a diagnosis of leprosy was a death sentence—a long, slow sentence marked by physical deformity, social isolation, poverty, and despair. Until recently, lepers were shunned by their families and communities for fear of contamination. It was assumed that their disease was a mark of spiritual impurity.
Before his conversion, when Francis of Assisi would pass the house of a leper, he would hold his nose in disgust. But one day upon seeing a leper, he dismounted his horse and ran to embrace the man. “What had previously nauseated me,” he wrote, “was turned into sweetness of soul and body.” According to Pope Benedict XVI, “Jesus healed Francis of his leprosy, that is, his pride,” on that day.”
While leprosy is now treatable, there are so many “conditions” today—illnesses, lifestyles, habits, or addictions—that can leave people isolated. And like Francis, our pride can keep us at a safe distance from them. Perhaps we fear that by getting too close, we’ll be seen as accepting their stigma, or we will be associated with “those kind of people.” But very often it’s “those kind of people” who reveal the kind of people we are.
Jesus reached out not only to lepers but to every other person who lived on the margins. He saw them as treasures, as people created in God’s own image. Despite the customs and norms of the day, he sought out such people and treated them with dignity and kindness. And he did this as an example to all of us.
Look around today. No doubt at least one opportunity will arise for you to do likewise: to welcome the foreigner, to feed the poor, to visit the sick, or to show kindness to the outcast. As you do, you too will see your own version of “leprosy” turned into sweetness of soul.