Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
Sunday, October 13th, 2019


To be "unclean" is more than being dirty; it involves more than violating cultural standards of purity and hygiene. Rather, it is to be polluted and polluting, contaminated and contaminating. The one who is "unclean," therefore, is to be feared and shunned on the basis of this uncleanliness.

Women, for example, have been labeled "unclean" since the cultural shift which made birth and menstruation "dirty" rather than revered. Instead of being regarded as bearers of Mystery and as intercessors with the Divine, women were demoted to temple prostitutes, "the Devil's Gateway," the cause of sin.... It was because of this perceived uncleanliness that more than 10 million women were burned as witches during the European Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is also one of the main reasons women have been excluded from full participation in certain Christian denominations, including Catholicism, and in certain faith traditions in which "masculinity" is seen as normative while the feminine, as in ancient Greece, is seen as an aberration.

Perceived uncleanliness also led to the stereotyping of Jews and gypsies during World War II; in our own time, it has led to discrimination against groups that include the homeless, racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community and those with AIDS.

Fortunately, human perception is different from God's view of things; in God's eyes, the only uncleanliness is a hardened heart.

  1. Have you ever experienced profound healing in your life and, if so, how did you express your gratitude?
  2. Have you ever experienced discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age etc.? If so, what was the experience like for you?
  3. Have you ever excluded any individual or group from your social circles or work circles because of their differences?
Greetings, Readers!

While themes of faith and gratitude are definitely present in this Sunday's scriptural readings, there is another theme which has relevance: that of treating certain groups as "unclean" on the basis of their differences from the majority. This week marks the 21st anniversary of the torture and murder of Matthew Wayne Shepard , a gay student from the University of Wyoming. The brutal killing galvanized the country, ultimately leading to a broader understanding of civil rights and to the expansion of federal hate crime law. Today, however, members of the LGBTQ community still experience discrimination, including in the work place, as well as violence, as we witnessed in the 2016 massacre at Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, FL.

When we listen to the Gospel narrative of the healing of ten "lepers," we would do well to remember those our society treats as "lepers" and to ask ourselves how we might create a safer, more loving and inclusive world. Leprosy is no longer a common disease; sadly, however, hatred and injustice still fester and spread contagion.
Many Blessings!

When he saw them, Jesus said,
"Go show yourselves to the priests."
As they were going they were cleansed,
and one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
falling at the feet of Jesus, he thanked him.
He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply,
"Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"
Then he said to him, "Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you." Lk 17:11-19

The ten people suffering from leprosy approach Jesus as a group, raising their voices in unity: "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!" Their affliction has bonded them to each other, becoming their core identity. Condemned to the same social isolation on account of their illness, this mixed group of Jews and Samaritans no longer functions as individuals nor even as members of different faiths. Instead, they probably live as the nameless ones, outside the camp, "untouchables" whom society considers to be "unclean" not only because of their physical condition but also because of the popular belief that leprosy is God's punishment for sin. Now, there are scholars who maintain that people suffering from leprosy may have been more integrated into society than was previously thought, but Lvt 13:45 clearly states that anyone who bore the sores of leprosy, should cry out, "'Unclean, unclean!' As long as the sore is on him, he shall declare himself unclean, since he is, in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp." Moreover, if someone wished to be re-integrated into society after the symptoms of leprosy disappeared, a priest would venture outside the camp to inspect his or her skin. If the person was indeed "clean," then followed the prescribed sacrifices and ablutions. Even so, that person could re-enter the camp but could not go inside his or her tent for a further seven days, and only then after shaving off all body hair, washing all garments and bathing in water.

But let's return to the ten. Luke doesn't tell us how many of them were Jews and how many were Samaritans, but Jesus is struck by the fact that it is a foreigner who returns to give thanks to God and not a member of his own faith. The other nine are so caught up in all the steps they must take to be reintegrated into society that they neither glorify God nor thank Jesus. Instead, they focus on returning to their old way of life. In contrast, the Samaritan places prayer and gratitude before ritual observance; he is ready to delay "going home" because he understands that God is the source of his new life. "Where are the other nine?" asks Jesus, knowing full-well that their healing has removed their blotches and scabs but not touched their hearts. "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you," he says to the Samaritan, the implication being that the other nine have been healed but lack the faith upon which salvation depends.

Ten are healed of one of the most terrible diseases known at that time: nine go back to their old ways while the "foreigner" goes forward into a graced future. Nine snatch the gift but ignore the Giver; one, receiving the gift, sees it as a sign of God's mercy and compassion and is forever changed.
I am presently exploring the ways my process of Image Guidance might be used in pain management. If you are suffering from chronic or acute pain and would like to participate in my project, please fill out the survey which you can find at (you will need to scroll down the right side of the web page!)


Imagery and Spiritual Awakening
Institute for Life Coach Training
Tele-course, Tuesday nights, October 15-November 26th, 2019. 5:00-6:30 pm CST

Day of Reflection: "Balancing Archetypes in Spiritual Direction"
Chicago Area Spiritual Directors (C.A.S.D.)
Thursday, November 7th, 2019. 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Carmelite Retreat Center, Darien, IL
Info: Roz Camardella,
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. I work "in person" as well as remotely by phone, Zoom or Skype; I am also available to facilitate retreats for groups and individuals.

Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,