29.04.2013 - 29.04.2013 78 °F
Homily preached by
The Reverend William J. Eakins
on April 28, 2013
on the Silver Whisper in port at St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
They were ten desperate men. They had leprosy, the dreaded disease of the ancient world, a disease that separated the afflicted from their family and friends and turned them into outcast beggars. Then one lucky day they crossed paths with Jesus and they were healed. Their skin was suddenly clear and whole and they were unclean no longer. All they had to do was show themselves to the priests and they could return home. Imagine their joy and their relief. Life could begin again!
In the midst of the celebration, one former leper left the party to fall at Jesus’ feet and say thank you for what happened. “Were not ten cleansed?” asks Jesus. “Why has only one returned to give thanks to God? Where are th other nine”
What could this Gospel story possibly have to do with us? I am quite sure none of us has leprosy and certainly none of us is a beggar. Most of us I imagine are in relatively good health and we have more than our share of the world’s goods. For weeks and for many of us, for months, we have been traveling in luxury to visit exotic places. We have dropped in for the day to see people who live in circumstances far different and far, far poorer than ours. And then we have been able to escape to this ship and to our air-conditioned cabins and to a choice of dinner in La Terrazza or Hot Rocks.
And now, three charming ports in the Caribbean behind us, many of us are on our way home to resume our comfortable lives with our family and friends. What could WE have in common with ten lepers on a dusty road in Galilee? Surely we are very different from them. And after all, don’t all of us write thank you notes?
Could it be that we too have been blessed by God, and that like the nine cleansed lepers we have gone on our way without giving thanks to the One who has blessed us? It is all too easy to forget that all that we are and all that we have is a gift, something that we have not earned. Why do we have so much when so many have so little? Why are we healthy when so many are sick? Why do we have people who love us when so many are lonely? Do we have plenty because we are smart and work hard? I don’t want to undervalue intelligence and effort, but aren’t there some forces at work here, forces that go beyond ourselves? For example, there is the simple good fortune of being born near the top of the food chain in a land of opportunity. Add to good fortune, the blessing of other people who have helped us along the way. Nobody succeeds in life without others. That truth was emblazoned on the Women’s Day banners in The Gambia last week that proclaimed “Behind every great man is a great woman.” However, what our Christian faith tells us is that behind, beneath, and around ALL of us is a great God, a God who loves us and is always working on our behalf.
How often, we like the nine lepers in the Gospel story, forget to give God thanks for all that we are and all that we have. Thanking God turns good fortune into blessings. And acknowledging how much we have been blessed makes us both humble and grateful. And humility and gratitude keep us from being selfish and self-centered and move us to share with others the gifts that we have been given.
At the end of the Gospel story, Jesus says this to the leper who returned to give thanks: “Get up and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Ten lepers were cleansed; all received this incredible gift. However, only the one who has the insight - the “faith”Jesus calls it - to perceive that GOD has touched his life is made whole restored to the humble, grateful person God intended him to be.
We can go OUR way home from this incredible journey to continue our lives taking for granted all that has happened to us. Or we can fall on our knees and say “Thank you, God” - thank you for all the blessings you have showered upon me. Then we shall go on our way made whole, people filled with humility and profound gratitude.