HEALING AND SAVING
READ: Luke 17:11-19
“On His way to Jerusalem, along the borderlands between Samaria and Galilee, Jesus came upon ten men who were suffering from the disease once known as leprosy. From a distance, the quarantined men called over to Jesus, ‘Jesus! Master! Have mercy on us!’ Jesus called back to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as the ten men were departing, they were healed of their disease. Finding himself cured, one of the ten men turned back praising God at the top of his voice. He threw himself down at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him. This man was a Samaritan. This led Jesus to say, ‘Were not all ten of you healed? The other nine, where are they? It would seem that no one has returned to praise God, except this foreigner.’ Then Jesus to the Samaritan man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.'” – Luke 17:11-19
Jesus one day healed ten men. One of the men was a Samaritan, a foreigner, an outcast from Jerusalem because of long-standing bitterness about their nation’s collaboration with the foreign powers against the Jews. This Samaritan was also known as a “leper”, in his day, his disease caused him to be quarantined to the wilderness, an “untouchable”, both figuratively and literally. We must presume the other nine men were either Galileans or Judeans. Jesus is struck by the fact that it was the Samaritan who returned to give thanks. Jesus healed the ten men, but a grateful man’s faith saved the one. Jesus’ grace healed the ten, and then Jesus’ grace saved the one. What happened to the souls of the other nine? I do not know … but I do know what happened with that one grateful man, humble enough to return.
In the Gospels, the healing of physical ailments is one ministry of miraculous grace; and the healing of souls is another ministry of miraculous grace – sometimes they intertwine, and at other times, they do not. Christ was about both saving and healing, sometimes the saving and healing overlapped, sometimes they did not, sometimes they appeared to be one and the same.
And as Christ was about the work of saving and healing, so also the Christ who works through our Christian ministry is about the work of saving and healing. Sometimes these two ministries overlap, sometimes they don’t. All this leads me to Sister Catherine.
Sister Catherine is a Benedictine nun – some sixty years now; and Sister Catherine is also a nurse – some fifty years now. A few weeks ago, I had to make a trip to the nearby clinic. Nothing all that serious, but serious enough to demand some medical care. It so happened that my nurse turned out to be Sister Catherine. Sister Catherine is a five foot tall package of kindness and compassion – yet, a most serious soul about her nursing. She studied my blood test and took a look at my infected wound, gave me a “tsk, tsk” for not coming in sooner, followed by a smile that this was a matter that could be cared for. Then she gave me a most holy and healing pat on my head, the kind of comforting touch that a mother gives her child. Then …in walked the Doctor, an obviously busy man. He quickly glanced at my chart, asked what was wrong … but before I could give him an answer, Sister Catherine spoke on my behalf, offering her diagnosis, her prognosis and her suggestion as to prescription. Apparently this was the way things worked with Sister Catherine and this Doctor, for he nodded his head, gave a smile at her and at me, and wrote a note or two on my chart. The Doctor said good-bye and went on to the next station in his rounds. Sister Catherine then gave me an injection, cleaned and bandaged my wound, gave me a lecture on the caring of such matters … then gave me a smile, offered a prayer, and then took the time… yes, to give me one more pat on the head.
For Sister Catherine. healing and saving somehow go very much together … she understands that the healing of wounds so often also involves the healing of souls. And I do believe all persons in Christ are to go about this work that Sister Catherine modeled so well, this work of healing wounded souls and the work of giving touches of compassion.
A note … as I write these words, I can still feel the touch of Sister Catherine’s hand on my head… and I can still bring to mind her gentle and compassionate smile … and when I do … somehow … the healing continues.
Brother Anthony of the Cross