THE LEPERS OF GINAE
Male Leper: Lord God! I come to you on bended knees, with my face lying prostrate on the ground!
Take pity on this unfortunate creature, Iíve got nothing but bumps all over my body! I pray you, Lord, I beg you and I trust in you! I pray, I beg and I trust in you!
Female Leper: What are you saying, chatterbox? Do you think youíll impress the Lord with your silly talk? Oh Lord, you know fully well Iím worse than he! Look, even the wounds in my body outnumber the hairs on my head!
Another Leper: Shut up, scabby, I came here first! I started praying before you!
Male Leper: I pray, I beg and I trust in you!
Female Leper: Lord, have mercy, Lord, have mercy!
There in the caves of Ginae, near the mountains of Gilboa, lived several men and women suffering from the worst of all known diseases at that time: leprosy. The lepers were not allowed to enter any town, nor knock at any door, much less to enter the synagogue. That is why, every Saturday some of them would gather in the big cave to pray for healing. They would scream and burn incense leaves so that their prayers would reach God through his ears and nose....
Male Leper: If you heal me, I swear Iíll never cut my hair nor taste a drop of wine for the rest of my life!
Female Leper: Every month Iíll walk barefoot to the Sanctuary of Shiloh!
Another Leper: Iíll consecrate my life in service to you! If you cure me, Lord, Iíll go the Monastery of the Dead Sea to study the holy scriptures day and night!
While the rest of the lepers prayed, Demetrius, the Samaritan, entered the cave. He was also a leper....
Demetrius: If someday you get cured, rascal, go get yourself a twin brother and let him fulfill your oath!..... Hey, folks, stop praying and listen to me! The Lord in heaven mustíve strained his ears with your stories. Why donít we give him a chance to rest? Listen.... Do you know what Iíve discovered?
Male Leper: How would we know..... Unless you tell us?
Demetrius: If you donít shut up, how can I tell you? Listen... Havenít you heard of Jesus of Nazareth?
Female Leper: Whoís he?
Demetrius: Heís a prophet! He is God-sent! They say the angels are with him!
Male Leper: Prophets make me laugh, more so if they come from Galilee!
Female Leper: Me too! And I wonít lift a finger for them.
Demetrius: What you should move are your feet. I heard that he and his friends are taking the road to Capernaum. And they have to pass by Ginae.
Male Leper: Well, let them pass where the road is good. What the hell do we care, Demetrius?
Demetrius: They say he has healed many sick people... He simply touched them and..... presto! theyíre cured.
Male Leper: Well, as for me.... presto!..... Iím not moving from here.
Another Leper: Neither am I. Look, Demetrius, I understand how things are. You come out of the cave, walk four miles, the heat, the exhaustion, the blisters on your feet and... what for?
Demetrius: What for? To see the prophet, to talk to him! Maybe he can help us.
Female Leper: Help us! Ha! You are a Samaritan, and thatís why youíre stupid enough not to understand that the only thing we can do is to accept our fate. Weíre all doomed.
Demetrius: Thatís right, weíre doomed... but we donít lose anything by trying! So, my friends of ill omen, stop lamenting. Letís all go and see the prophet!
Male Leper: No, Demetrius, weíre not going.
Demetrius: Why not?
Male Leper: The prophet is not passing through Ginae.
Demetrius: Donít tell me. How did you know?
Male Leper: Because I know. Iím sure theyíll take the road to Dothan. People like us are jinxed; we are never lucky. Weíll just be wasting our time.
Female Leper: I think our friend, Ptolemius, is right. Theyíll take the road to Dothan.
Demetrius: You know something? I think with a band like you, even Nebuchadnezzar would fall from his horse! Itís alright. Just burn your leaves here, while I go and wait for him along the road of Ginae. But donít tell me I didnít inform you!...
Some Lepers: Wait, Demetrius, donít go... we.......... wait....
Amid grumblings and protests directed against Demetrius the Samaritan, the rest of the lepers put on their black and dirty rags to cover their bodies. The little bell hanging on their clothes was a reminder for people to stay away. After walking four miles, they took their place along the road coming from Jerusalem and leading to the entrance of Ginae...
Male Leper: We came at the wrong time, Demetrius! Look, weíve been waiting here for quite some time..... and... what for?
Female Leper: So weíll know they have taken a detour to Dothan, thatís it.
Another Leper: I bet nine against one, weíll never get to see even the shadow of that roving prophet !
Demetrius: Well, Iím taking the bet. Youíd better start paying, my friend, because.... I swear theyíre those people coming along the bend!..... Look!..... Canít you see? Itís they, Iím sure!!
Male Leper: My grandfatherís name was ďSureĒ and heís dead now...
Demetrius: Canít you see them? The prophet of Galilee is coming!!
Male Leper: Okay, okay,..... so what?
Demetrius: Now weíll tell the prophet our problem, and maybe he can help us.
Male Leper: Do you think heíll waste his time on us? Címon, Demetrius, donít aim so high. If you fall, it could even be worse. The prophet will pass by this road, all right, without even getting a glimpse of us.
Female Leper: I agree with Ptolemius. Weíve got the jinx, you know.
Demetrius: Okay, okay, but I want to see the Galilean.....Hey, Jesus, help us. Do something for us. Hey, Jesus, over here even for a minute, please!
Demetrius, the Samaritan, signalled to us with his two arms. He was shouting and jumping, so we would see. Behind him, the other lepers were looking at us suspiciously....
Demetrius: They have seen us! And theyíre coming over!... Hey, Jesus, prophet!... But... whatís wrong with you? Will you just stay there like wet chickens? Címon guys. Move, do something!
Female Leper: What do you want us to do, Demetrius?.... Címon, tell us...What can the prophet do for us, huh? How can he help us?... Donít be too excited... you might only be disappointed.
Male Leper: I agree with her. Címon, Demetrius...
Demetrius: Okay, I know, I know. Go to hell, all of you! Even patient Job canít put up with you!
Jesus, Peter and I were walking ahead of the rest and when we saw the group of lepers at a stoneís throw, we came to a halt...
Jesus: Hello, my friends, who are you? Where did you come from?
Female Leper: Now, heíll ask us to go away...
Demetrius: We came from the caves of Ginae! Weíre lepers! Can you help us?
Jesus: Well, the truth is... We didnít bring anything... Not even food nor money...!
Male Leper: I told you! Itís all just a waste of time, plus a bonus of blisters on our feet..
Jesus: ...Why donít you see the priest and tell him your problem!... Who knows, you might be lucky!.... Goodbye!
Male Leper: ďWho knows, who knowsĒ... This prophet knows nothing and passes it on to the priests!
Female Leper: ďGo to where the priest is and tell him your problems!Ē Great!
Another Leper: Well, a man forewarned is worth two men. I brought some dates with me for the long walk back to the caves. Goodbye!
Demetrius: Come back, you bunch of idiots! If the prophet had told us to go barefoot to the Sanctuary of Shiloh or to go up the Mo¨nastery of the Dead Sea, wouldnít we have done that?
Male Leper: Well, in that case...
Demetrius: Well, heís asking us something easier: to go to the priests of Ginae. Címon, letís all go there and see what happens.
Male Leper: See what happens! Iím sick and tired of this ďcome and see what happensĒ thing! I pray, I beg, I trust.... but nothing happens!
Demetrius: If the prophet said this, then it must be for something!
Male Leper: Of course, itís for something! Itís to make fun of us! Didnít you see his expression?.... Iím not going anywhere...
Another Leper: Neither am I.
Another Leper: Nor I.
Another Leper: Look, Demetrius. do you think with these wounds in my leg, I can show myself to the priest for examination?
When Ptolemius, one of the lepers, took off the rag that covered his legs, everyone was aghast...
Male Leper: Look.... Look!!... My skin has become so smooth, like a childís!
Female Leper: How can it be possible!.... Let me see...
Another Leper: Yourís too, Marthina!..... And yours, Godolias!!
Another Leper: And mine!!! And yours too, Demetrius!....
The lepers of Ginae wept and shouted with joy when they realized that their wounds had disappeared without any traces at all....
Male Leper: Something fantastic has happened here!
Female Leper: It has never happened before! Itís a bunch of miracles!
Demetrius: See, I told you, killjoy! The prophet of Galilee has cured us, without even lifting a finger! Címon, guys, hurry up! Run...!
Male Leper: Where to, Demetrius? Where do you want to bring us now?
Demetrius: To where the prophet is! Whether he is still in Ginae or if he has arrived in Capernaum, weíll go see him!
Female Leper: Are you out of your mind, Demetrius? Why are we going to look for him?
Demetrius: What for? To thank him, damn it!
Male Leper: Forget it, Demetrius. We wonít see him anyway.
Female Leper: Of course not! Donít you see heís a prophet?
Female Leper: Prophets just disappear. Remember Elijah, who went up the air in a chariot? We wonít see him anyway.
Another Leper: Right. Heíll just disappear.
Another Leper: Well, you may go on with bickerings if you want... but Iím heading right now for Bartholoís inn, since my throat hasnít had a taste of wine for three years!
Another Leper: Iím doing the same tonight!
Female Leper: Iíll go greet my family in Bethulia!
Another Leper: Iím seeing Martha and Filomena, the good one and the bad one! Hahay!
But Demetrius had left them and started to run along the streets...
Demetrius: Hey, have you seen a brown, bearded man pass by? His name is Jesus of Nazareth!
A Man: No, my friend... Wait a minute, but... arenít you Demetrius, the leper?
Demetrius: Excuse me, madam, did you see a group of Galileans pass by? One of them is Jesus, the prophet.
An Old Woman: No, my son, I havenít seen anyone. Iím also looking for my lost grandson...
Finally, after a lot of running and asking, Demetrius caught up with us, at the mount of Jarod...
Demetrius: Jesus, thank you, Jesus...!
Jesus: Hey, and where are the rest of your friends?
Demetrius: Well, they.... they only think of God during rainy days.... you know!
Demetrius, the Samaritan stayed with us for quite sometime in Jarodís inn. Then they all drank a toast for him and for his nine companions who stayed behind; and for God, who makes the rain fall over the good and bad, and the sun shine on the grateful as well as the ungrateful.
The original word in Hebrew for leprosy is ďsaraíat,Ē which is derived from the expression ďto be punished by God.Ē Leprosy was always considered a horrible divine punishment. The religious ďimpurityĒ was thus contracted by the sick person, which made him repudiated by the rest of the community. So the lepers had to live in segregated places, were strictly prohibited from entering the cities and they had to announce their presence in the streets for everyone to avoid them. Since the disease was also perceived to be incurable, the only hope of the patients was a miracle. In any case, if the disease was cured, it had to be confirmed and certified by the priest. (Lev 14:1-32)
Dothan and Ginae are two small cities about eight kilometers apart, situated along the road ascending to Galilee from Judea, passing through the Samaritan mountains. Of the ten lepers praying and suffering in the cave of Ginae, Demetrius is the only Samaritan. There is an interesting symbolism here: The most despised of all (for being a leper and a Samaritan) shall be the only one who will keep alive the trust of the group (because of his faith, the miracle will work for everyone) and the only one who will express his gratitude for what was done to him.
A fatalistic attitude toward life paralyzes us. If everything is indeed written,Ē if destiny (fate) is something that cannot be contradicted, then nothing can be done but to wait for the time of its fulfillment, for good or for bad. Demetrius will fight against his companionsí pessimism and will mobilize them. This will bring him near Jesus and will open possibilities in his life. A false religion has taught the hearts of many men and women, fatalistic beliefs about life. These ideas are not certain though: We are free men and women. The direction that our life takes depends on us. If still we are not free, if ours is a life that is crushed by suffering and oppression, a fatalistic attitude (it has always been so, it will always be like this) will only perpetuate the situation. It is not destiny that perpetuates it, but our attitude.
In this episode we see how, reluctantly, the lepers go in search of Jesus; how they distrust him, criticize him, and finally, how ungrateful they are. In spite of all these, Jesus heals all of them. This miracle is therefore, a sign that Godís gifts are free. God grants us life, good health and opportunities not because we are more grateful or less grateful or in order for us to be good, but because God loves us. Godís love is unselfish, disinterested, and doesnít expect any incense burning or applause in return.
Luke, the only evangelist who wrote about this picturesque and ďincredibleĒ account of the ten lepers who were healed, wished to elaborate a catechetical scheme about how our attitude toward God should be, and he did it by way of this parable on gratitude. This attitude is important not because God ďneedsĒ it to help us, but because being grateful helps us to be truly humble and to be more brotherly/sisterly with one another. There are people who only remember the Lord during bad times. They also follow the rest of the pattern: they are good only at asking. They never express their gratitude. Such behavior obviously implies a certain egoism, while to be grateful makes us aware of our limitations and gives us a certain joy which egoists will never experience. To be grateful is closely linked to human solidarity, to sharing, and to the knowledge that we support one another and are responsible for each other as we involve ourselves in the performance of the common task.