Luke 17:11-19 - Capturing the Mystery
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 voice, 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."
Imagine transforming today’s Gospel into a screenplay. An inevitable challenge would be to represent the moment of the healing. How did it happen? As a flashing moment of cleansing energy? As a smooth, breezy touch blowing away the infection like a layer of dust? Or did the foul scourge disappear in the blink of an eye making it impossible to witness the event - therefore also impossible to represent other than by a change of scene?
The perplexity of picturing the workings of the miracle mimics the mystery of divine intervention as such. Even if we are blessed with enough faith to affirm God’s action in a certain situation, we will still be quite incapable to point the finger precisely at God’s fingerprints. There is a radical difference between the trail of cause-effect left by physical mechanisms and the sight-escaping doings of mystery.
Maybe this is why nine out of ten did not return to thank Jesus. Do we not ourselves engage God quite insistent and confidently when in need for a miracle? Upon noticing that what we had hoped for was actually granted, we react exultant. But after a while, when looking back, we struggle to recall the precise proof of why exactly this was God’s work; in retrospect, it suddenly seems quite possible to explain the “miracle” quite naturally. I believe, this experience, still common today, leads nine out of ten to not return to Jesus and thank Him.
Over time, we can recognize such a behavior in our spiritual life and be surprised. Once we discover that tendency of our’s we might react by, going forward, trying to petrify the moments of grace, hoping to somehow trick our own silent skepticism: we write down insights never to be forgotten, we take pictures of places of grace so as to revisit the glory inhaled there, we commit to forms or make resolutions that seek to prolong the pius sway in everyday life. Like the screenwriter, we thus seek to capture mystery and attempt to pocket grace like a polaroid photo. As noble as that is, and as mature and wise as it is to commit to spiritual practices which keep us on track: we will never change the ethereal and somewhat volatile character of mystery and will never reach the point of automated faith. At the contrary, each day will be a new occasion for us to renew and refresh our fundamental decision to believe in Jesus and to love Him. For this is what love means: To commit your life day after day to someone.
Jesus, I believe in You. There are thousands of “proofs” in my pocket: “proofs” for Your presence, for Your love, for Your words to me. And yet, no number of such “proofs” will ever be enough; none of them will take away the need to renew my faith now by living it here. Help me, Lord, to treasure your graces and to remember our story thankfully; let that treasury be my personal “depositum fidei,” the sum of things I believe because You present them to me. For I know that it is not memory which enables my faith but it is the faith You grant me today which enables that memory.