Now That We Are Well, Do We Still Need Him? Rereading the Story of the Ten Lepers.
The ten lepers in the gospel of Luke (17:11-19) were beneficiaries of God’s gratuitous mercy, forgiveness and healing. Nine of them were ungrateful but one was grateful. This made Jesus exclaim; "Were not all ten made clean? Where are the other nine?" By history, ancestry, religion and culture, the ungrateful nine were the closest to Jesus yet only the Samaritan, the foreigner, came back to give thanks. What happened to the other nine? Our exegetical findings show that they were distracted, overwhelmed by insensitivity, overtaken by selfishness and blinded by culpable ignorance.
Obviously they had reasons for their actions; but were those reasons good enough? The first wanted to see if the cure was real (doubt). The second felt there was plenty of time to see Jesus after all (procrastination). The third thought: "Maybe we hadn’t leprosy in the first place" (self-delusion). The fourth said: "I had always known we will get well someday" (rationalization). The fifth said: "I told you friends, if you think positively you will be well" (pride). The sixth said: "Jesus didn’t do anything special, any rabbi could have done it" (familiarity). The seventh said: "Why do we have to thank him for doing his work" (error of commission). The eighth remarked, Jesus said, "go to the priest". He will be mad with us if we return to him now (alibi and self-justification). The ninth said: "Now that we are well, do we still need him?" (dispensability). What a paradox. We must have met these lepers before perhaps we are even one or all of them, always inventing reasons for our actions and inactions. Not seeing good; always pointing out the bad in anything and everything.
Is this cure real? Are you sure this leprosy will not surface once we all go back our individual way? Doubt is indecision between belief and unbelief. It deals with uncertainty; the hesitation to believe. Here, the cured lepers failed to believe the miraculous work of Jesus even when it is made evident in their lives. Was this doubt voluntary or involuntary? I cannot positively or negatively affirm it; but I know that voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. While involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity.
I will preferably hope that the lepers’ doubt were involuntary. Doubt if deliberately cultivated, can lead to spiritual blindness. It will be a saddened event for them to transverse from been lepers to blind men, more so, of the spiritual realm. A simple gesture of gratefulness wants to rob them of their healing and inflict them with a more devastating state. Anytime doubt sets in, let us conquer it with belief.
Why can’t we go and see him tomorrow? Procrastination is a killer of decision. Procrastination is the act of unnecessarily postponing decisions or actions. Why wait for an opportune time to be grateful? The hour of deliverance, of restoration and of answered prayer is also the hour to render thanks and be grateful. There is so much to be grateful for such that when we receive unmerited favours, it demands that we respond immediately in thanksgiving.
People often procrastinate because they are adverse to the tasks that they need to perform. For example, if you need the help of a superior you dislike, you might end up procrastinating instead of just going to him and asking for help, because you don’t want to talk to the superior. Also, when negative factors outweigh our self-control and motivation, we end up procrastinating. However procrastination can exist due to rebellion. A knowingly postponement of action just because we don’t like the idea of it.
The ancient Greek philosophers developed a word “akrasia” to describe this type of behavior. Akrasia is a state of acting against one’s better judgment. It is when you do something even though you know you should do something else. The lepers knew that they had to return thanks to Christ, but yet acted against this better judgment. Was it that they disliked Jesus and couldn’t face him or that they were overtaken by their healing and were motivated towards other concerns they had not attended due to the nature of their sickness? Can we say that they did not like the idea of thanksgiving? Maybe or maybe not. Procrastination should not deter us from counting our blessings.
Did I ever had leprosy? How can you say I should be grateful for the healing of a sickness that I never had? This is self-delusion at work; the act of deluding oneself. How often do we deceive ourselves, misleading our mind to falsely belief in what is not true. We construct our own truth belief and dwell on the falsity of our claims. How can the lepers believe they were always clean without being leprous?
Self-delusion is the state of having a false idea about yourself or the situation you are in, or have been. It breeds unbelief, ungratefulness and untruthfulness. It makes us not to accept the reality of our being, making us slide from the real to the unreal. We are defined by trickery, falsity, illusion and deception. One very grievous sin of self-delusion is the fact that we seem to mock God. By not accepting their past situation and the present reality as the miraculous working of God, the lepers mock God’s intervention in their lives, mock the truth of miracle, and mock the need to be grateful.
There is nothing as noble as accepting who we are and the problems we are passing through. We should also acknowledge God’s providence in our lives, and the direct miraculous interventions we do receive from Him. These illusions we create out of self-delusion make us fall into life threatening pitfalls in our personal lives and estrange us from God.
I am always convinced that this leprosy will leave one day or another. I wasn’t born with this sickness, I know I won’t die with it; it is just natural that I will be fine. Rationalization is a careful plot to explain events or things outside the real fact, a secondary explanation to escape the truth of an event. How can there be another reason for this miracle except God’s intervention? What other explanation can be given to this almighty act of God? The lepers decided to belittle the active work of God in their healing so as not to apportion thanks to God.
Rationalization is the act of describing, interpreting or explaining something that makes it seem proper and more attractive. It is a defense mechanism by which our true motivation is concealed by explaining our actions and feelings in ways that seem proper. Here, behaviours or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid or conceal the true explanation.
People rationalize what they shun or are incapable of dealing with. Thus we can say that the lepers wanted to shun the gesture of gratefulness. Why give thanks they ask, when we can ascribe the healing to natural forces? Were they also incapable of dealing with the reality of their cleansing? Can we say they did not believe in their heart that it was the active work of God, or they just don’t want to align with the Divine? All good things in our lives and around us are sent from heaven above, let us thus thank the Lord for all his love and blessings on us.
I told you guys if you think positively you will be well. Pride makes a person think so highly of himself. Pride is a feeling or a deep pleasure or a satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements and efforts. Was it really their positive outlook that won them their healing from Christ? This unreasonable and inordinate self-esteem resulting from pride channel every positive event that come our way as the result of our very self.
Pride has no place in God or in any of His works, for pride is an emotional state deriving positive affect from the perceived value of a person or thing with which the subject has an intimate connection. God sends the rain and the sun to both the righteous and the sinful, to the godly and the ungodly. The ways of God are further set apart from the ways of men. We cannot search out reasons behind God’s actions, nor should we allocate the result to ourselves. If we believe at any time like the lepers that our positive outlook is the sole reason why God respond to us in love and mercy, then we too are proud.
What is so special about healing a leprous man? Jesus didn’t do anything special, any rabbi could have done it. I have seen more marvelous works greater than this. God works through anyone he chooses, so what is so special about him? He is just an instrument in the hands of God. Familiarity can be seen as having close acquaintance with or knowledge of someone or something. Familiarity indeed breeds contempt. The lepers became too familiar with Christ or perhaps with the array of miraculous works wrought by him. They lost formal courtesy and brought Jesus down to their level.
It is always said that people do not appreciate what they have until they lose it. Familiarity, the knowledge of something; or the fact that you know it so well, makes us lose the intrinsic value of it. Unlike the Samaritan, the nine lepers were Jews like Jesus. For them, he is the promised messiah, he just did his work. It has been promised that the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the leper will be cleansed; so it isn’t so new or special. Is it not the same Jesus who woke up Lazarus from the dead, so what is so amusing about curing a leper? Must we start going after him just to show gratitude?
This undue intimacy is dangerous. Just like the lepers, undue intimacy can lead us to forget to give thanks to God for his blessings. We say to ourselves: Is he not God? He has the power to do it, so he should. We breathe every day and we count it as normal, we sleep and wake up and feel it is the norm. We are able to feed, clothe and house ourselves and we look at these blessings as insignificant. Familiarity can make us forget to give gratitude as it is required of us.
Error of Commission
Why do we have to thank him for doing his work? Error of commission have to do with choosing to act or believe something and we are wrong. We make analyses, and decide we know the outcome, which later proved to be wrong call. The lepers have heard all about Jesus and felt they knew him. He is the messiah and so part of his mission is to cure them of their leprosy.
It is true that Jesus is the messiah, but there was no compelling force that made him cure the lepers. It was not out of duty, but out of mercy and compassion. It is the love of the son of God and his desire to restore health to human persons that made him cure the lepers. If he didn’t cure the lepers, it wouldn’t make him less the saviour he is. There were other lepers in Israel that were not cured by Jesus. Are there things that we ascribe to God as his duty which he must perform under compulsion? Do we take God’s care for us as mere duty? If we do, we are making an error of commission and judgment. The lepers made the same error too.
Alibi and Self-justification
Jesus said go to the priest. He will be mad with us if we return to him now. This is Alibi and self-justification. We always do find an excuse for something we have done wrong or failed to do. Our desire to justify our actions and believe we have always done the right thing can lead us to distort our view of reality. We prefer preserving our self-image to seeing the truth. Self-justification allows us to convince ourselves that what we did was the best thing we could have done. In fact, it was the right thing.
Self-justification blocks our ability to see our errors, let alone correct them. It distorts reality, keeping us from getting all the information we need, and assessing issues clearly. The lepers knew it was the right thing to go away at once to find Jesus and be grateful. They even saw one of them leaving to find Jesus, yet their self-justification distorted their reasoning faculties to do the right thing, replacing it with excuses that serve to justify their wrong action.
Now that we are fine, do we still need him? We can now go to the places we couldn’t before, we can work and fend for ourselves. We are not sick again, so what do we need Jesus for? If we go to him, is there anything better he would do that he hasn’t done? He has lost importance in our lives, he is no longer relevant to us. Jesus is now dispensable. This indeed is the thought of an ungrateful heart.
Dispensability deals with the fact of being dispensed; for one to lose essence or value. It means that one can get along without the person or thing. The lepers once held Jesus in high esteem before their healing, he was their all in all, the saviour that they so much awaited. Once they got what they wanted, his relevance ceased. Just like the lepers, when we are seeking favours from God, we fast, pray and go to the church frequently, but once we are gifted, we discard all we once religiously did and forget the giver. The gift is all we ever wanted; the giver is dispensable.
Like the ungrateful nine, we are often overwhelmed by our gifts that we forget the giver. How often do we remember to say thank you? How do we use our gifts: the gift of life, health, wealth, knowledge, beauty, talent, and intellectual power Listen to this, ingratitude is sharper than the devil’s sword and as Lucius Seneca puts it, the first degree of ingratitude is to neglect to repay the benefits received, the second is to forget them, and the third is to requite the benefactor with evil. Incidentally, the grateful leper, stranger though, became the hero. Why? Because he appreciated the magnanimity of the gift and thanked the giver. Gratitude is the virtue which excites us to praise God unceasingly for his many benefits, especially our redemption. Gratitude is an attitude that yields the altitude of faith.
- Not one of His bones shall be broken. Preservation in Persecution and Martyrdom
Certain signs and prophesies were linked to Jesus as the messiah and saviour. The gospel of John highlights one of such prophesies in the event of Jesus’ crucifixion and death: Not one of His bones shall be broken (Jn 19:36). However, how do we bring