This story came up in one of the Mass readings for last week. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, traveling by way of the border between Samaria & Galilee. It seems He was still quite a ways off from anywhere when some lepers spotted Him & called out for mercy. What did "mercy" mean to them? What did they expect from Jesus?
To Jesus, "mercy" apparently meant healing. And healing meant not only being restored physically, but being restored to society, family & community. He told the lepers to go show themselves to the priests, so off they went & were cleansed... all ten of them. Just one turned back to Jesus, shouting praise & thanksgiving to God at the top of His lungs. That must have been quite the scene. Luke also makes a point to tell us he was a Samaritan (despised among the Jews). He's the one you'd least expect to find mercy from God... But there he was, at Jesus' feet, overwhelmed with joy. Did he return because as a Samaritan, he actually wasn't allowed to go to the Jewish priests? Or did he return out of genuine thanksgiving because that's the first thing that crossed his mind?
The others went & left him, maybe thinking they were being obedient to Jesus by going straightaway to the priests. Imagine how happy they were to be rid of the Samaritan's company as well. I think I would have been one of these 9, holding fast to something along the lines of : "Jesus said I'm supposed to do this, this & this & any deviation shall henceforth nullify my healing..."
In receiving the one who returned, Jesus seems to be implying that the life of faith isn't always about following the rules. It isn't always about who you are (or aren't). In our day, we might equate someone with an alternative physical, religious or sexual orientation as a "Samaritan". We may exclude them from our personal esteem & our fellowships because of who they are... despite the fact that they may have "faith" like us. Jesus may have cleansed all 10 lepers, but to this one lowly Samaritan, He also said "Your faith has saved you". The other 9 went away merely cleansed, but this one was also saved."? A Samaritan?
It definitely gives me pause for people of faith who are kept outside the Church for the sake of the "rules"... simply because they are... "Samaritans", whether by birth, choice or public opinion.