Where you least expect it…

Where you least expect it…

The gospels tell of many unlikely or unexpected heroes. On one occasion it was a Roman military officer, a centurion. He sent a message to Jesus asking Him to heal a beloved servant. As Jesus drew near to his home, he sent another message. “I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof…  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” To this Jesus responded, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” And the servant was healed. 

On another occasion there was a tax collector named Zacchaeus. Today no one is happy to have an encounter with an IRS agent; in the Lord’s days tax collectors had two other negative qualities associated with them-they were notably corrupt and they worked for a foreign government, the Roman Empire. But in the story Zacchaeus is a short man, very anxious to see Jesus, who climbs up a tree to get a better chance to see Him. Jesus walks by, calls him by name, though they had never met, and invites Himself into Zacchaeus’ home.

The gospel passage that we heard today relates a miracle story, the healing of ten lepers. Nine of the ten men who were healed went on their way, but one of the ten returned to Jesus, praising God and thanking Jesus. And that one was another unlikely hero, a Samaritan, not a Jew. “Then said Jesus: ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this 

Where you least expect it. A Roman soldier- a pagan. A tax collector- a traitor and a crook. A Samaritan- a “heretic “ and foreigner. 

At all times and in all places we need to look for God working in people, when we least expect it. It may be a stranger; it may be someone you see often but don’t interact with; it may be someone that you don’t particularly care for. God speaks to us from unlikely sources. 

Fr Arseny, a priest who suffered persecution in the 20th century Soviet Union, once said, “Each person you encounter enriches you, brings you a piece of light and joy. Even if he brings you his grief, you will find in everything the will of God” (Fr. Arseny:1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father, p. 112).

The point is that we should be open to God speaking to us in unexpected ways. A wise man once said that interruptions in our routine, the things that bother us when we are in a groove, may God interrupting our lives to tell us something. The person who criticizes us may in his or her own way, knowingly or unknowingly be speaking on behalf of God. 

We need to be open to surprises. Often we are not. One common mistake is being judgmental. It is a sin; it is in fact one of my sins. We write off people; we look down on them; we find fault in them. In doing so, we may be losing opportunities to learn something.

The differences between Jew and Samaritan are part of the fabric of today's story. They had many things in common, but their differences were such that, though living in bordering states, they had nothing to do with one another. St John’s gospel noted that, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” 

Indeed in those days Jews did not associate with Samaritans, but Jesus found something good in this Samaritan, who returned to say, “Thank you.” When you least expect, God is often working there and speaking to us. 

“Every visitor or every person we meet should be venerated as a messenger from God. The first question we should always ask inwardly is this: what does the Lord wish me to do with or for this person? We should receive everyone as though they were the image of God, reverencing them and ready to help them all we can.” (Theophan the Recluse, quoted in The Art of Prayer, chap. 5, p. 244, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.)

God speaks to us in time of prayer and in times of reading the Scriptures. It is to be expected. But we cannot limit God’s voice to only these occasions. If we listen for God’s voice in all places and from all people we won’t be surprised when He speaks sometimes from a Samaritan or a panhandler. And their voices will bring blessings into our lives. 

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Text - 12th Sunday of Luke: Lk. 17:12-19

At that time, as Jesus entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said: "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When He saw them He said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus's feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus: "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And He said to him: "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."