The One Who Came Back
Gospel Reading for the Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)
"Why do you guys let me hang around? I'm not one of you."
"When you're outcasts like us, don't matter where you come from."
I remembered that conversation as we sprinted through the streets. Ten of us, lepers all. There was no community for us except each other. I don't remember how I ended up with them, but I was always acutely aware that I was the outsider. I saw the disgust when we came into town and then disgust heaped upon disgust when people saw me. I was worried the others would turn on the Samaritan. Abandon me. Those words assured me: None of that matters when you're already an outcast.
We were running because that's what we were told to do. We asked a rabbi to heal us and he said to present ourselves to the priest. So we did. What did we have to lose?
I pumped my arms and noticed my wrist out of the corner of my eye. I skidded to a stop and the dust kicked up everywhere. I looked again at my hand, wrist, and arm. Where once there had been disease, there was just skin. I had almost forgotten what my arm looked like.
But they had already noticed too. They were looking at their hands and arms, eyes wide in amazement. The awe turned to giddiness. We began laughing and celebrating. "I'm going to see my family!" "I'm going to eat in my own home!" It was then I realized that we had to go thank the man responsible.
"We've got to go back to rabbi! We need to thank him!"
I saw them awkwardly stiffen. It was like they were seeing me for the first time. I saw a guilty look in a few of their eyes. I knew it was over. They weren't outcasts anymore. Just me. The final words I heard from any of them only confirmed it.
"There is no we."
They began to walk away. I stood there alone in the street. Dust floated around. I turned and ran back for the teacher. I had to thank him. Where else could I go? As fast as my feet would take me, I tore through the village, tears in my eyes. Gratitude. Abandonment. Healed yet wounded.