The Healing of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17:12-19)
In today’s Gospel reading we hear of the healing of ten lepers. It is easy to pass by this account without noticing some very important lessons that explain our spiritual condition and how we are able to be healed of our spiritual infirmities.
We can think back to the garden of Eden and recall how our first parents, surrounded by unlimited delight and enjoying perfect health failed to be grateful for these gifts by pondering on the venomous words of the Devil and eventually believing them, that God was withholding something from them that would truly make them happy. Only once cast out of Eden did our first mother begin to thank God for all that He provided for her, when after giving birth to her first son Cain, she said, “I have acquired a man through God.” Sadly, we usually are not able to cherish anything until it is gone. When things go well, we take them for granted. And so, we might sometimes wonder why it is that God at times instructs us to pray constantly, and at other times makes it clear that before we pray, He already knows what we need. In today’s gospel reading we see our Lord asking, “were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger?” This question from our Lord is similar to His question in the Garden to Adam once he had transgressed, when He asked, “Adam, where art thou?” Our Lord does not ask these questions to find anything out for He knows all things. In both cases, He was lowering Himself to help us come to the right understanding of our sinfulness and the need to ask for forgiveness and once it is given to be thankful for it. So, from this it is abundantly clear that God does not need our prayers, but rather we need them as they help us to remember our sinfulness and they help us to never become ungrateful for all of God’s great gifts and acts of mercy.
We also notice that our Lord told the lepers to go show themselves to the priests. Jesus was making clear that He was not against the Mosaic Law. We do not believe that God instituted these things for no reason, but rather believe they foreshadowed the Christian priesthood that He would establish. Sadly, many reject the Christian priesthood, making it appear as if our Lord made a mistake by having a priesthood in the Old Testament. As Orthodox Christians however, we continue the tradition of going to the priests to be declared healed of the “leprosy” of sins in the Mystery of Confession. And just as how the Jews were instructed to not even go near a man with leprosy, we see that we are not to have company with sinful people. Lastly, we should notice how our Lord gave the credit of the leper’s healing to the leper saying, “thy faith hath made thee whole,” showing us how we should give credit as much as possible to others and not take credit for ourselves. Our Lord had all the right to show that it was He Himself that was responsible for the healing of the lepers, but since He cares nothing for pride, but only wills to share His dignity with us ungrateful humans, declares that it was the leper’s faith that healed him. The infinitely smaller portion that we contribute is viewed by God as so important that He is willing to give it all of the credit. We need to imitate our Lord and not speak of how much we do, but how much we are indebted to God and our fellow man for everything good in our lives. May we learn from the Samaritan leper from what great illness we have been delivered and continuously give thanks to our Lord until the day we finally enter into the heavenly mansions that we will never take for granted again. Amen.