The Gospel of Luke 17:12-19
At that time, as Jesus entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When He saw them He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’s feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
This is an interesting story that we are faced with. We see the Ten Lepers standing at a distance and asking Jesus for Mercy upon them. They obviously have heard about Jesus, or they see something in His that the recognize as holiness, either way they call out to him for mercy.
We do the same. In each Liturgy that we celebrate we ask for mercy after each line of the litanies that we say. More than 100 times we sing, Lord Have Mercy, as we are asking for the mercy of God in all situations. When we pray, we pray that what is in God’s will is what is granted. It may not always be what we want, but if we are walking in God’s will it should be.
Notice also, that they call to Him from a distance. They have leprosy and because of that illness they are not allowed to mingle with people. They have to stay away in order to keep the illness from spreading, they are cut off, just like we are when we sin. We are cut off from God and from the community.
When they call to Him, He simply tells them to go and show themselves to the Priest. This was how a person was to become ritually cleaned from their illness. Notice, he does not heal them, touch them, or anything, just tells them to obey the law. On the way they realize they have been healed. Imagine, they have suffered with this illness for a long time, we guess anyway, and as they are walking to the priest, they are healed. This amazing thing takes place that restores them, not only physically, but spiritually and returns them to the community. Do they all go back to say thank you, no, only one returns, and Scripture tells us he is a Samaritan.
It is the same with us and our spiritual illness. We all need the healing power that come from God through the Sacramental life of the His Church. We come to confession, and ask God to have mercy on us. The priest, acting on behalf of God and the community, pronounces the absolution and restores us to spiritual health and back to the community. But are we thankful?
Christ has come to heal a fallen humanity. He has come to restore us to our former glory but only a small portion will recognize Him and return to Him. In our secular world we have lost sight of what is really important. Are we like the nine who have been healed but do not turn back to worship the God that has healed us?
The man who returns “fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks” but he was the only one. Jesus asks, “Were not ten cleansed?” Then He says to the man, “arise, go your way, Your faith has made you well.” It is at the point of the man’s worship that his healing actually takes place. It is the same with us.
Worship, or thanksgiving, is a corporate activity and through the prayers that we say, and the Sacramental life of the Church we find the healing that need, the spiritual healing, and perhaps the physical healing as well. The Church is the hospital for the soul and should be the first priority of the Orthodox Christian to come to worship and to give thanks to God for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us.
We come to worship, and ask for God’s mercy, do we take them time each day to turn back, fall on our face, and thank Him for the mercy that He shows us? Are we the one, or are we the nine?