Giving Thanks for a Great People
If you ever go to Ireland and visit the great Rock of Cashel be sure to look for the “leper window.” The lepers stood on a balcony on the outer wall of the Cathedral but were able to look through the window and see the altar so they could attend Mass without being in the congregation with non-lepers. In fact, the people in the cathedral were unable to see the lepers and the lepers were unable to see the people. In ancient and medieval times having leprosy really meant that you were already dead – the walking dead.
Leprosy was considered so infectious that the laws concerning lepers were extremely severe. Not only were lepers restricted from being in the company of non-lepers, they were also often removed to places that were remote, cut off, fenced in, and often guarded by watchmen. Lepers could have no trade, nor were they allowed to sell or give anything to others, so they were dependent on the charity of others to provide for their need such as food, water, clothing, whatever medicine was available. In many places, lepers were expelled from their villages, towns, and even their own homes and families. All their property, land, house, and valuables were confiscated, and they were removed from their loved ones. Lepers were no longer allowed to inherit anything, nor were they allowed to use their own family name. They were outcasts, without family, home, nation, without past or future. If they did travel on the roads, they were to call out to passers by that they were lepers, or they were to ring a bell, to warn people to keep away. Imagine never being able to see or touch your parents, your wife or husband, your children, and your loved ones.
When Jesus heals the ten lepers all this changes for them, in fact, when He heals them Jesus quite literally gives them their life back. Suddenly everything that was taken away is restored. Now they could return home to their family, they could reclaim their inheritance, their name, their property, their family, and friends, they could live their life again in the midst of their loved ones. Jesus restores their life. Realizing what Jesus has done for him, out of ten, one leper returns to thank Jesus. God gives us so much, actually, everything we have, even our life itself, all gifts, in one way or another, come from God. It would be good to remember to give thanks to God.
As a priest and pastor, I get to see the generosity of God’s people every day. So today I am the leper. Today I want to thank all of you who have so generously given so much to make our parishes great places to be and great communities to belong to. The Kingdom of God is built by generous, faithful, and loving hearts. Everyday, I am fortunate to see the grace of God poured out through the kindness, compassion, good nature, and good will of so many wonderful people. Thank you! Thank you fall all you do, for all you contribute, for all the life and good you make possible. Your faith, your charity, your hope, makes life not only possible, but a joy to be a part of. Thank you!