How is the parable of the ten lepers in today’s gospel reading speaking to us? There are many compelling themes but I would like to focus on healing and gratitude.
Throughout history and even today, people with leprosy have suffered banishment from their communities, friends, and even family. Jesus starkly broke this custom by cleansing them in today’s gospel.
The process of cleansing, which I think could be also described as healing, included movement: “Go show yourselves to the priests.”
For me, healing is a process, a journey of reintegration. It often requires conscious movement. At AFYA Holistic Health Center for Women in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, where I work as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner alongside Maryknoll sisters and community members, we often receive people who have suffered trauma that, in many cases, has led to stagnation and some manifestation of paralysis in their lives. Through various therapies we open up a space of connection and reconnection with self, others, divinity and nature, and invite them on a journey of healing.
Brazil has one of the highest rates of anxiety in the world. We see this statistic play out in the people who come through our doors in the periphery of the coastal city of Joao Pessoa, in northeastern Brazil.
One day a man arrived with so much anxiety that he could not sit still for his session. Our holistic health therapist invited him to take off his shoes and go into the garden. After several minutes of pacing barefoot on the earth between the medicinal herb beds, he was able to calm himself down.
This story came to my mind as I reflected on the leper who returned to Jesus and fell to his feet. Besides showing his immense gratitude to Jesus in his gesture, the leper was, in my mind, grounding himself.
Grounding helps us to live more fully in the moment, anchoring our bodies, minds and emotions in the here and now. With this, we are free to live more fully with less energy (and anxiety) focused on dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
Gratitude is also a beautiful theme in today’s gospel reading. The parable reminds us that we won’t always be thanked or that strangers may often show us more honor than those who know us.
I also believe that gratefulness is grounded in the moment. Our group of Maryknoll missioners in Joao Pessoa often begins the New Year with a reflection on gratitude, inviting each missioner to share one thing we are thankful for at this beginning. One year, Maryknoll Sr. Azucena San Pedro shared that she was grateful to God for waking up that morning. Just that, being alive.
Blessed are those who can be grateful without asking for anything!
Photo: Maryknoll Lay Missioner Kathy Bond (left) teaches chair yoga at AFYA, Joao Pessoa, Brazil. Photo courtesy of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners.