He Saw Them

The Gospel passage for yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, was Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers, recounted in St. Luke’s Gospel. We tend, when we listen to that passage, to focus on the one leper – the Samaritan – who came back to give thanks to Jesus. The passage invites a focus on gratitude, and that is what Fr. Rolf talked about at the Mass I attended at St. Hubert yesterday morning.

But what I kept coming back to as I listened to the passage again yesterday was something that Rev. Neil Willard had zeroed in on when he spoke about the passage at St. Stephen’s Episcopal on Wednesday evening – the most important aspect of Jesus’ encounter with the lepers.

When Jesus entered the village, ten lepers “stood at a distance form him and raised their voices” crying out for him to have pity on them. The next line of the Gospel says, “When he saw them” he told them to go how themselves to the priests, and as they went, they were cleansed.

He saw them. Jesus looked at the lepers and saw them. He did what most people didn’t do when a leper came near, so intent on putting distance between the leper and themselves that they never really saw them. He did what we so often don’t do when a beggar approaches us in the street – perhaps we toss a coin or a quick “sorry” in their direction as we hurry past so quickly we don’t really see them. He did what we don’t do anytime another approaches us who we don’t want to deal with for one reason or another.

He saw them. Jesus looked at the lepers and saw them. Even if he did nothing else, even if they had not been cleansed, he gave them an enormous gift simply by seeing them. By seeing them, he gave them dignity. By seeing them, he made them, not only lepers, but persons.

Who do we not see? And what would it mean to see that person the way Jesus does?

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