This Sunday is the twelfth Sunday of Luke; the Gospel reading recounts the healing of the ten Lepers (Luke 17:12-19).
As the Lord Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem (towards His Passion) he passed through a village where he was greeted by ten men with leprosy; a serious and contagious skin disease common in that time. From a religious perspective, the infected person was considered “unclean”, and according to the Law, this “uncleanliness” was grounds for isolation; socially and religiously. The Jews considered this disease as retribution from God towards sinners, lepers were seen as the ultimate sinners, punished for their disobedience. They were forbidden to socialise with others and turned away at the gates of the temple when they tried to visit for prayers and religious rites. The affected were prevented from mixing with others and were further humiliated in their distinguishment from the non-affected; they were forced to call out “unclean, unclean” to warn others of their approach. Anyone who came close to them or touched them would be considered unclean themselves. Naturally, this caused those afflicted to suffer not only physically, but psychologically and spiritually as well.
Of the ten lepers in this Gospel reading; nine were Jews and one a Samaritan. In that time, there was religious and ideological disagreement between the Jews and the Samaritans, causing a huge rift between the two groups, so the Book says: “The Jews did not mix with the Samaritans” (John 4:9) as the Samaritans were considered impure by the Jews. But we can see that within this particular group of lepers, the Jews lived with a Samaritan, as pain and suffering united them and their differences were cast aside, gathering as one set of outcasts in support of each other.
We read from the evangelist Luke; “they stood from afar” as the Law ordered them, and raised their collective voice in prayer to Christ, saying “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They were seeking mercy from the Master, something which they lacked from their own people and society. In response, Jesus ordered them saying “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And that they did, immediately believing in the word of the Lord, without objection or doubt of their cleanliness, even before they were cured. Their faith manifested the miracle.
After they had set off, only one of the ten lepers returned to Jesus “to glorify God with a loud voice”. Of all the ten, the only one to return in gratitude and thanksgiving at the feet of Christ was the Samaritan, called “foreigner” by Jesus, and considered a stranger within the Jewish community. We can see that this healed Samaritan, through his faith, realised that Jesus was not only a teacher or a miracle maker but the Lord himself. In fact, the first commandment for the Samaritans is not to worship and prostrate to anyone but “God”, so the very act of prostration at the feet of Jesus made by the returning Samaritan was a clear and public acknowledgement that God and Jesus are the same person.
The healing of leprosy, along with other miracles, was considered an act of virtue by the expected Messiah, and a sign of the approaching Kingdom of Heaven. The Evangelist Luke makes mention of this (7:19); John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus, saying: “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” And in that very hour, He cured many infirmities, afflictions and evil spirits. Then He answered the two disciples, saying: ” Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind can see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them, and blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
The ten lepers all believed in the word of the Lord Jesus, and because of this all of them were healed, but only one came back and thanked Him, receiving salvation, “Go thy way; thy faith has made thee whole.” Faith leads to the healing of the flesh. But thankfulness, gratitude and worship lead to the healing and salvation of the soul.
We all are sick with the leprosy of sin which makes us unclean and far away from God. We should realise just how far away from God our sinful actions make us and dare to approach the Master of Glory shouting aloud “O Jesus Have Mercy on me! Kyrie Eleison, Lord Have Mercy.” He will listen and cleanse our souls from the Leprosy of sin, but it is important that we return to Him and thank Him as the apostle Paul says: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Ephesians 5:20). We often forget, in our ungratefulness, to return to God in thanksgiving, for His mercy.
Christ does not need our thanks; it is for our own acknowledgment and recognition that He is the origin and source of all blessings, healing and good things. We must continually thank God when our prayers are answered, in whichever capacity they are, for He knows what is best for us and what is useful for our salvation.
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Amen!
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