It is Jesus Who speaks in your hearing today, saying:
This is a wise thing that these 10 lepers do. They go to Jesus. This is a wise decision because they have reasoned that Jesus is a healer. They have heard of Jesus’ deeds and from that deduced that He would do the same to them, if they could just get to Him.
This wisdom, however, only saves 1 of the ten. Though all ten were wise and infected, perfectly suited to receive healing, only one had been given saving faith. Why this difference.
I would say that this 10th leper had wisdom applied to practice, or prudence. He did not simply go to a place or a person solely for his own gain, but recognizing true goodness in Jesus, he turns back to stay with Him, where this true goodness is.
Wisdom is finding the good. Prudence is staying with the good and returning to it again and again. Thus, prudence turns out to be one of the four cardinal virtues, meaning anyone can practice them even without a gift from God. The other three are justice, fortitude, and temperance.
While the world turns away from virtue, it is good for us to practice a life full of virtue. Not because we will become famous or rich or healed by Jesus, but because an unexamined life is not worth living and indeed our own culture has proved this for us.
Every part of the cultural revolution in the
has failed virtue. Whether it’s the sexual revolution, education revolution, or
scientific revolution. We were given a republic that guaranteed a wide berth
for liberty and for local oversight, with the central government reserved only
for matters that were truly national, we now face tyranny.
We were given a clean slate and a very intriguing plot line for culture and community. We were a civil melting pot, able to live together in peace with those who differed from us. So we need to clear out the garbage, admit our errors, and rebuild.
Repent. Every single pagan philosopher of the ancient world said that if you wanted to be free, you had to learn the hard ways of virtue and that the worst form of slavery was slavery to your own appetites. We must find the good and return to it.
Joseph, of the coat of many colors fame, was called prudent by Pharaoh when he interpreted his dream and was consequently set as second in command of all Egypt’s empire (Gen. 41:33, 39). King Solomon of course, on top of his unmatched wisdom was also prudent (1 Ki. 3:12).
Jesus tells us the prudent man builds his house upon the rock, so it won’t wash away (Mt. 7:24). There are 5 prudent virgins who make it into the marriage feast of the Bridegroom (Mt. 25) and there is a faithful and prudent slave who, when the Lord returns to His house, finds him so, giving food at the proper time (Mt. 24:45).
There is also the downside to virtue, however. The Serpent in the garden of Eden is called “more prudent than any beast of the field which the Lord God has made” (Gen. 3:1). And most of
St. Paul’s talk about prudence is in the
negative, as in don’t be prudent in your own eyes (i.e. Rom. 11:25; 12:16). Again,
anyone can practice it.
So why bother?
The key is in the phrase, “then one turned back”. Virtue will not save us from death, but it sure points the world in the right direction. God is full of all virtue, yes, and yet we see Jesus acting imprudent with these 10 lepers. He wastes a good healing miracle on ungrateful louts and only gets a 10% return on His investment. Not wise. Not prudent.
Virtue gets us halfway, but halfway is not good enough. Because Jesus is not numbered with the self-righteous, He is numbered with the unvirtuous, the transgressors. Virtue may save our culture, but it will not lead us to Jesus. Jesus is where prudence means wasting all that you have for the sake of one sinner repenting.
Thus, we see that what we think is prudence is not really prudence. What we see as 1 sinner making the right decision, is really one sinner being saved before even thinking about turning around. What we think is a parable about 10 lepers, is really a picture of a leprous Savior.
Jesus takes on your skin, which means He takes on all the disease that goes with it. He is numbered with transgressors and lepers alike, taking their disease in exchange for His health. He walks with all of us in our disease filled sin and corruption. Yet in all that He does not sin. The nine; all of creation, continue to walk in sin and death. The One, true Son of God, turns back.
Jesus is the one, born of a woman, that turned back; the only one to turn back to God. Multiple times the Lord has called His people to repent and turn to Him, even in the New Testament, but we would not and do not. Not at His Incarnation. Not at His miracles. Not at His cross. Not at His empty tomb.
But that is where Jesus went. We find our unvirtuous God handing out godly virtue and unlimited grace to all who have faith, and faith comes only by hearing, and hearing only by the Holy Ghost.
Thus true virtue is only found in the gift of the Holy Spirit, which in wisdom points us to Christ and in prudence drags us to His Church again and again. Virtue is not virtue if practiced in sin, but in faith the Christian stands up against even death itself.
Because Jesus has done this for you, in a body just like yours. Thus, He heals you in a body like yours. He comes to you in a body like yours. He feeds you, speaks to you, washes you with a body and creates a bodily faith that saves even you.
Wisdom is finding out that Jesus lives with His Church. Prudence is constantly returning to where Jesus is giving food at the proper time: His true Body and His true Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.