“As they were going, they were cleansed.” (Luke 17:14)
In ancient Judaism, lepers were deemed unclean and outcasts from society. Separated from loved ones, until a priest declared them healed, they bore more than the physical symptoms of the disease.
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus meets 10 lepers who boldly come to him, acknowledge his authority, and ask for his pity.
In response, he tells them to go show themselves to the priest. He is essentially saying to act as though they are already clean. To believe in the fulfillment before it has come about. And, they do.
It’s while they are obediently acting that they are then healed.
The lepers show great faith by coming to Jesus with their petition. I’m struck even more by their faith-filled obedience. And I wonder: Where were they walking? Were they entering back into the village to get to the priest? Did they face resistance from people who saw them?
I’m reminded of others who set about doing what God told them to, no matter what, before there’s fulfillment. Noah built an ark. Abraham left his homeland, and held on in faith to God’s promise of a son, despite its delayed fulfillment. He was even willing to sacrifice this son, believing that God’s promise would still be fulfilled if he did. Like the lepers, these men showed faith-filled obedience, in hope, despite the task.
Although God sometimes acts right away, a lot of the Christian life requires obedient action in hopeful faith in a fulfillment that is yet to come.
The lepers had had their lives put on hold and been set apart because of their disease. In my own life, I’ve dealt with illness, and, like the lepers, my plans have been derailed, and I have constraints I’d like to be free of. As I’ve talked to God, he’s said both to believe that he’ll heal me, and to accept what he wants to do before then. To keep going forward in belief of the fulfillment before it arrives.
Many of us have received personal promises from God but await their fulfillment. While acting, the lepers receive the grace of healing. May we all receive God’s grace as we act in hope. And, like the one who returns, may we value the giver more than the gift.