Friday, October 01, 2010
“When Jesus saw the ten lepers, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.” (Luke 17:14-15)
SOUL-SURFING – October 10, 2010
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
“Three young men were applying for the last available position on the Texas Highway Patrol. The veteran detective conducting the interview looked at the three of them and drawled, ‘So y'all want to be cops, huh?’ All three nodded excitedly in the affirmative.
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“The detective got up, opened a file drawer and pulled out a folder. Sitting back down, he opened it, pulled out a picture and said, ‘To be a detective, you have to be able to detect. You must be able to notice things such as distinguishing features and oddities like scars and so forth.’
“So saying, he stuck the photo in the face of the first applicant and withdrew it after about two seconds. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘did you notice any distinguishing features about this man?’
“The nervous applicant said, ‘Yes sir, I did. He has only one eye!’
“The detective shook his head and said, ‘Of course he has only one eye in this picture! It's a profile of his face! You're dismissed!’
“The first applicant hung his head and walked out of the office.
“The detective then turned to the second applicant, stuck the photo in his face for two seconds, pulled it back and said, ‘What about you? Notice anything unusual or outstanding about this man?’
“‘Yes! He only has one ear!’
“The detective put his head in his hands and exclaimed, ‘Didn't you hear what I just told the other kid? This is a profile of the man's face! Of course you can only see one ear! You're excused too!’
“The second applicant sheepishly walked out of the office.
“The detective turned his attention to the third and last applicant and said, ‘This is probably a waste of time, but....’ And he flashed the photo in the applicant’s face for a couple of seconds and withdrew it saying, ‘All right, did you notice anything distinguishing or unusual about this man?’
“The third applicant said, ‘I sure did. This man wears contact lenses.’ The detective frowned, took another look at the picture, and then began looking at some of the papers in the folder. He looked up at the applicant with a puzzled expression and said, ‘You're absolutely right! His rap sheet says he wears contacts! How in the world could you tell that by looking at his picture?’
“The applicant rolled his eyes and said, ‘Well, heck! With only one eye and one ear, he certainly can't wear glasses.’” (Original source unknown)
Seeing but not perceiving – that’s what it’s all about. These three Texas Highway Patrol applicants described clearly the photo put before them, but they lacked the ability to make meaning of it. And so it often is with us. We see but do not perceive. It’s also the story of nine of the ten lepers we meet in the gospel passage we hear today.
The lepers, seeing Jesus passing by and having heard the stories of his wondrous deeds, ask him to heal them. And, as the gospel states, “When Jesus saw the ten lepers, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.” (Luke 17:14-15) The key phrase here is this: “As they went, they were made clean.” Indeed, Jesus sent the ten off to the temple so the priests could verify the healing. And only one of the ten, the one who returned to thank Jesus, realized that he’d already been healed.
Seeing but not perceiving – that’s what it’s all about. As the ten lepers hurried away from Jesus to present themselves at the temple, so focused were they on the priests’ verification of their healing that they were blind to the reality of the present moment. I can imagine the scene: one of the lepers happened to look down at his formerly diseased hands and realized there now appeared no sign of leprosy upon them. The other nine kept their eyes focused on the horizon where they could just make out the temple in the distance. One leper perceived the miracle as already having taken place; the other nine saw only the horizon ahead. One leper made an immediate U-turn, returning to thank Jesus. The other nine hastened on toward the temple.
Seeing but not perceiving – how often it’s also our own experience. Too often, I think, our eyes are focused on the horizon, on some future day when we expect to reap the fruits of our most fervent prayers. Indeed, our faith is strong in the assurance that God loves us and wants the very best for us – but the answer to our prayers seems always to be a future event. Too often we find ourselves just like those nine lepers who hurried on toward the temple. Blessing and healing are just on the horizon, so keep running!
But today Jesus holds up for our emulation that one single leper who stopped mid-journey and took stock of the miracle that had already taken place, of the blessings that were already his. And perceiving God’s goodness, that single leper gave thanks. Let us this day stop running toward the promise of a better tomorrow and give thanks for the miracle of the present.