A Belatedly Grateful Leper

Cleansing of the Ten Lepers - Codex Aureus Epternacensis (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This story is inspired by Luke 17:11–19, the cleansing of ten lepers, and illustrates two aspects of Ignatian spirituality: imaginative prayer and gratitude.

We’re camped outside Jerusalem tonight.

Some time ago I was cured of leprosy by Jesus. Ten of us showed ourselves to the priest, as prescribed, and how we celebrated after that! Nine of us, that is. One fellow disappeared. The rest of us went to a local inn and sat at a crowded table. No one knew we had been unclean. We looked like any other patrons in the place.

We ten came together over the years simply because of our shared affliction. With that gone, we had no reason to stay together, and within a few days, we parted.

I returned to my village where my family and my old girlfriend embraced me with joy. I married her, and we have a newborn son.

One night last week, my wife finally sat up in bed after hearing me repeat for the millionth time my regret at not going back to thank Jesus for the cure. I owe that man my life, I tell her again and again.

“It’s not enough that you are kind to every beggar, crippled person, and outcast in this village?” my wife chastises me. “Isn’t it thanks enough that you are changed from the self-absorbed lost soul you once were? Isn’t it enough that you risk contamination again in the way you welcome strangers who may have sores we know nothing about?”

I try to explain that I am changed, not only from being a pariah to society, but transformed to practice compassion. Still I wish I had returned to thank him. Why can’t I let that go?

“I heard some travelers say they saw Jesus headed to Jerusalem for the Passover,” my wife said, sighing deeply. “The day after tomorrow we will pack for the journey, even though we will celebrate the great feast here tomorrow. We will seek out this Jesus and you can thank him, and then we can move on with our lives. Let us return to the city of peace and give this rabbi our thanks.”

That is why we are camping outside Jerusalem tonight. I can’t believe he was crucified. My grief was unbearable, until last night.

Christ appeared to me, risen from the dead! Even as my head hung and I sobbed in my wife’s arms, the bright light shone around us. His appearance was another blessing I did not deserve. But I accept the opulent gift. I thanked him profusely, with large tears, as I hugged his feet. He immediately reached down and pulled me up to look into his eyes.

Jesus comforted me and held our baby. I know I am forgiven for not returning to give thanks after the cure. Jesus invited me to return home again to continue loving our neighbors, teaching our son, and offering kindnesses to all people. And now I have another mission: to spread the news that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We will begin a community of believers in our village.

I am glad that my wife suggested this journey and grateful that we did not have to witness his Crucifixion. Jesus appeared to us resurrected, and I was able to pour out my appreciation. God knew my deep desire to express gratitude and gave me an opportunity to do so. I was instantly healed of the nagging regret that stole my peace of mind for not going back to Jesus the day the leprosy left me.

With Jesus, it is never too late to give thanks.


Today in 31 Days with St. Ignatius, explore Five Fresh Ideas for Renewing Prayer. #31DayswithIgnatius

About Loretta Pehanich 27 Articles

Loretta Pehanich is a spiritual director and author of Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. She is involved with the Center for Ignatian Spirituality in Sacramento and its program in giving the Spiritual Exercises. She has more than 20 years of experience in ministry, including retreat work and small group leadership. Loretta currently works as a fundraiser in Sacramento. She and her husband have four children and nine grandchildren.

19 Comments on A Belatedly Grateful Leper

  1. I enjoyed both the imaginative and prayerful aspects of this creative story, even finding myself imagining that the former leper was giving thanks to the Lord Jesus by no longer being self-absorbed and reaching out to others in need. Whenever he did his kindness to the least of his brethren, he was doing that to Jesus. The author has challenged me to be more thankful.

  2. I was deeply touched by the pouring out of love from both Jesus and the grateful couple. The story brings to mind the gift of unconditional love — the gift freely given if we are open to accepting it. And the choice we have to share that love.

  3. Thank you again Loretta for another inspiring and well-crafted story that transports us directly into the middle of the scene!

  4. A beautiful use of composition and place in the story! It kept me wondering what the next development would be and when I read it I felt invited to think beyond it since I was inside the story. A soul searching story.
    Definitely shores me up on my spiritual journey.

    • I love imagining Jesus appearing to people after the resurrection. What would it be like if he appeared to me tonight? What would we talk about?
      Thanks for your comment, Henry.

  5. I really liked that, nice work! I teared up when Jesus held the baby boy and I’m doing it again thinking about it. Thank you!

  6. This prayer reminded me so much of being healed myself. Many years ago, I was viewing the life of Christ, an outdoor theatre at Wintershall. In one of the scenes I was very much moved and touched as if I was the leper when Jesus stretched out his hand and touched HER! I was suffering from depression then. Since then “I pour out my appreciation. God knew my deep desire to express gratitude and gave me an opportunity to do so.” through my prayer in art. What amazing grace!I pray if it is his will that I will start a group to support art in prayer.

    • All of us have some sort of leprosy at one time or another, don’t you think? Perhaps it is a small sore, or one that we feel compelled to point out to others as we shout out “unclean! unclean!”
      Jesus invites us to be healed, and to go forth to heal others.
      May we follow the call!

  7. Simple story of grace and gratitude. Then the depth to be thought about. He is walking back to his home. Does he contemplate how he will react to the afflicted? He has no sores, will he be cast out again? Is she still freed to be pursued? Or does he leave all his concerns with God? I have much to think about.

  8. What a great perspective! I never thought of the story from the point of view of one of the lepers who didn’t thank Jesus. And I loved how the cleansing changed his life so profoundly that he went on to affect the lives of many others. It was wonderful that he had the second chance to thank Jesus in the end, too. The story gave him that means of redemption. Very well done!

  9. The reflection on the lepers makes me recall my own journey with cancer. People at church and others were praying for me. I don’t know who they all are but am very thankful. I really didn’t know how serious my condition was until later my wife told me. She did not want to cry when she visited me but did when she got home. It makes me realize like Jesus healing the lepers there are those in our life that touch us with their prayers.

  10. I’m enjoying the way in which you enter in to the scriptures, Loretta, and image them freshly. Looking forward to your next blog post!

  11. Thank you for the story. The last sentence touches me deeply. “It is never too late to give thanks.”
    For that reason, I embark on this 31 days with St Ignatius today.

  12. I loved the perspective of this story. I have lamented much that at timesI just cannot imagine myself in a story (other times I have no problem at all). Loretta, you taught me to go beyond the story, to look for other ways to immerse myself in prayer over a verse. What a beautiful image. Thank you.

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