The In-between Space
As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "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 made clean.
October 7, 2022, Words By: Fred Laceda, Image By: Unknown
A couple of weeks ago I was invited by a seminary classmate to “speak” at a camp for the homeless just outside of Manila. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I would share with them. So, I decided to listen to their stories of hope and hurt. I found out that they are from different parts of the city, occupying the borderlands and in-between spaces of Manila. What unites them is their shared experience of exclusion.
Being homeless in a dense city like Manila creates a constant struggle to find a place to belong. Recently, for “beautification” purposes, local authorities barred homeless people from occupying public spaces; they are treated as an eyesore that needs to be tucked away from public sight. The homeless, in other words, are outsiders from within.
My experience in the homeless camp was a reminder of the importance of social location. Our perspectives are shaped, in part, from the place on the social ladder where we experience life. By occupying their proverbial space through their stories, I gained a glimpse of a view from below.
From whose eyes do we see the text and our context?
Jesus, it seems to me, is inviting us to occupy the unfamiliar and uninhabitable spaces, in life and in the Scripture.
Our lectionary text this week is one such example (Luke 17:11-19). On his way to Jerusalem, along the borders of Samaria and Galilee, Jesus encountered ten lepers. It’s here, in the in-between space, where the ten cry out for mercy. Jesus answers their cry by sending them to a priest and healing them along their journey.
Among the ten is a Samaritan, an ethnic enemy of Jesus’ people. And yet, he’s the only one who came back to Jesus to thank him. The rest went on their way to be reintegrated into their community. And who can blame them? It may have been years since they had seen their friends and families.
Occupying The In-between Space
The ten lepers and the homeless of Manila occupy the same in-between space. Both groups were ostracized from society. Most of us will never have to experience that level of exclusion, but we all face different forms of othering at some moment in our lives. And the moment we are given the chance to be reintegrated into society, we are likely to grab it.
That’s why the Samaritan’s behavior is so exceptional. He went back to Jesus first instead of eagerly joining his own community. He might be healed from his leprosy, but that didn’t change his nationality, or Jesus’ for that matter.
Perhaps this story isn’t just about the healing of leprosy, but also includes the healing of humanity. Jews and Samaritans were locked in a bitter battle for God’s place of worship. This entailed mutual exclusion, animosity and violence. By connecting with the Samaritan, Jesus broke with that system. By coming back to Jesus, as opposed to reintegrating with the old system, the Samaritan eschewed the way things were. Together, they changed the pattern of rivalry.
Jesus invites us to occupy the in-between spaces in our world, just as he did. He shared our experience of exclusion, pain and agony. He transforms these spaces of shame, hurt and exclusion into places of mercy. Will you join Him there?
Dwelling Among Us
Where is an in-between space that Jesus may be inviting you to in your life?