“Stand up and go; your faith has saved you”

Do we presume too much about our faith? In Luke 17:11-19, we learn how easy it is to act on it rather than to talk about it.

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.

In Jesus’ time, Samaritans were despised as not being equal worshipers of Yahweh. Jews went out of their way to avoid Samaria and Samaritans. In the Gospels, Jesus often goes out of His way to embrace Samaritans and even in this reading, he traveled through Samaria to go to Galilee and to Jerusalem. Of course, Jesus always teaches us to love our neighbor — the “other” among us.

Here we have ten lepers who seek Jesus’ help. Jesus gives it to them and among those ten who receive it, only one returns to give thanks to God. “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asks. The one who is returned is a foreigner, an other. “Your faith has saved you.”

It’s not uncommon for the presumed faithful to think they’re saved. Like the child who presumes he can come home anytime and eat from the refrigerator, bring his laundry home for Mom to do, borrow cash, and throw a party or two at Mom and Dad’s expense, the self-righteous presume a familiarity and an entitlement. The other nine apparently felt no need to thank Jesus or Yahweh for their healing. We don’t know, perhaps they glorified God when they showed themselves to the priests. But Jesus seemed fairly certain the nine took their healing for granted. Or maybe they weren’t the faithful at all. Maybe they had heard of Jesus’ healings and being desperate thought they would give asking for healing a shot — and bingo! Now go celebrate. Maybe they didn’t even show themselves to the priests. We can’t know (or presume) from the reading. What we do know is that one stayed behind to thank God.

It’s easy to say we believe. It’s easy to say we have been saved. It’s harder to act on our actual belief, to be the Christians we say we are. The simplest act is to love God and show our thanks.

Now, Jesus tells us not to be showy in our prayers, not to make a big public display out of them. But this one healed leper who was grateful to God didn’t make a public display; he merely fell at Jesus’ feet in relief and thanked him. How easy it is to praise God and thank Him for His compassion, His mercy, and His love. Even in a whisper. Even if we say, “Thank God,” to mean it rather to merely express it as an interjection. “Oh my God!” doesn’t have to be said in vain, it can be an expression of admiration and gratitude.

Thanking God isn’t about meeting God’s need to be thanked. It’s about meeting our need to commit to our faith. It shouldn’t take  a “foreigner” to show us the way. “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” God loves us deeply. Let us love God deeply back.

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