In the ancient world, lepers were not included in the community. They were supposed to keep distance from others. The communities were afraid of them. Today we read this story and may say, it is so sad. Are we different from them? Flu season what do we do. We are afraid of those who are sick or self-conscious of our health. Jesus’ story, there were ten lepers. In this story there are two points for reflection: inclusion and gratitude.
What is inclusion? Some of them must have been limping with deformed legs, most likely relying on crutches. Some had lost fingers and even parts of their face. Many had horrible sores all over their bodies. They were hideous.
All of them had bells. All were required to call out continually, “Unclean, unclean.” The healthy would do everything possible to avoid them. That is why at the beginning of the Gospel the lepers stood off at a distance and called to Jesus to heal them. They were not supposed to come closer. Jesus told them “Go show yourselves to the priests.” It is because there was a ritual to be welcomed back to the community. Jesus healed them, not just leprosy, but brought them back to community.
Respect life month invites us to meditate on dignity of life. Fr. Dennis Mullen at the cluster mission reminded us that our culture tells us that we have to be young and wealthy. So we are tempted to move towards that goal. The Bible teaches that life is a gift of God and hence we have to respect it from womb to tomb. This weekend we celebrate Inclusion Awareness Day as a part of respect life month. Respect life month we celebrate life with our ability and disAbilities, our strength and weakness. We are one family. Because we like to see ourselves young, healthy and wealthy, sometime we forget to appreciate the rest of the community. Inclusion awareness Sunday is opportunity to reflect how we include everyone in the community by looking at our abilities, rather than looking at disAbilities. How we appreciate the gift of each and every one. In other words, how we celebrate our differences. This weekends reading invites us to “do something beautiful for God” by reaching out to others.
Father Henri Nouwen, the founder of the Pathways Awareness remarked that "I was always studying about God and teaching about God to all these bright students. I wanted to be smarter than others. I wanted to show them that I could be "with it". And I suddenly realized that it is not in strength and power that God was coming to me, but in weakness."
God’s love includes everyone. He opened his arms and heart on the cross to embrace everyone. So Jesus invites us to open our hearts, minds and doors for everyone. But in reality, sometimes many people with disAbilities are unintentionally excluded. Inclusion Awareness Sunday invites us to reflect that what I can do to include everyone.
Second point is gratitude. On the way to the temple priest, all of them received healing, but only the Samaritan came back to Jesus to express his gratitude. He was outcast twice, he is outcast because he was a Samaritan and then because of leprosy.
We try to teach our children to say please and thank you. When we reach our adulthood, do we still keep the positive attitude or do we become a more negative person. Do we count our blessing? Do we still keep that attitude of gratitude? It is most beautiful prayer. Eucharist is a beautiful prayer of gratitude.
Let us pray, Lord, may we never fail to recognize your love and mercy. Fill our heart with gratitude and thanksgiving. Lord, give us strength to bring others closer to you. Amen