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The healing of the ten lepers

Article written by: Silwan, Metropolitan of Byblos, Al-Batrun and Mount Lebanon

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Sermon on the Sunday reading for the ten lepers (Luke 17:12-19), which is read on the 12th after Ascension Sunday

The number ten has its symbolism in Candle. Scripture, as it is one of the biblical numbers symbolizing perfection. Based on this, we can say that the healing of the ten lepers does not mean only a certain number of sick people, but also extends to all mankind and concerns his relationship with God and how it can be restored according to God’s plan for man.

Leprosy is a dangerous disease, the consequences of which extend far beyond the personal health of the sufferer, as a person infected with leprosy has completely isolated himself from his family, social, professional and religious environment. The leper may be said to be a picture of mankind, who have become diseased by sin and whose nature has become subject to corruption, thus residing in essential separation from God. As a result, the relationship between its members has become disturbed, similar to what happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise, as well as between them and God.

However, whether we think of the disease of leprosy or the state of human nature in sin, the disease implies the presence of a great pain, which should make a person strive to overcome it, to ask to be healed from the disease of sin.

And if a person lives in that hell, in which the lepers lived then, in isolation from human society and from God’s people because of his cultic impurity, then for him the pursuit of healing remains the only way out. This becomes possible if the patient begins to contemplate the gift of life, its Source and its purpose, trying to know himself in the light of faith and knowledge of God, accepting God’s word with the most serious attitude and starting to fulfill it.

But what is the way to get things back to normal? And by this is meant the leper to return as he was before his leprosy?

The healing of the ten lepers gives us an answer to this question. When Jesus asked them to show themselves to the priests in order for them to certify that the sick were indeed healed, their obedience bore fruit as soon as they fulfilled Christ’s command: “go, show yourself to the priests.” “And as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).

However, the return of the Samaritan to Jesus to thank Him and worship Him shows us something completely new and discovers another depth in man. The restoration of man here takes place in two stages. First, Jesus calls for thanksgiving and praise to God with the words: “how come others were not found to return to give glory to God, besides this stranger?”. And then he confirms that the person cured of leprosy should continue on the path of faith and salvation: “get up, go your way: your faith has saved you” (Luke 17:18-19). This is exactly what it means for humanity to be healed and its condition to be normalized according to God’s providence.

Therefore, let us list some general characteristics of God’s saving providence, which the case of the healing of the ten lepers reveals to us.

The first distinguishing feature is God’s goodness and beneficence, which is the basis of Jesus’ preaching about repentance and the approach of the kingdom of heaven. Because if the kingdom of God is righteousness and holiness and it does not know corruption, disease or infirmity, then this leads us not only to the restoration of material life and health, but first of all – to our victory over the reality of sin, evil, corruption and the disease that is inherent in our present condition. In this way our nature will recover its beauty which God intended for it. And we tangibly understand that faith in Jesus, like the tenth healed leper, contains within itself the seeds of this victory.

The second characteristic is God’s mercy, with which Jesus bestows all who seek His mercy, as is the case with the ten lepers. God’s mercy, however, embraces all mankind and every individual, without partiality or distinction between them. Jesus himself said before that that God “makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45).

The third characteristic is Jesus’ call to repentance, personified by the Samaritan, who glorifies God for His goodness, thanks Him for His beneficence and worships His Lordship.

In this Gospel reading, personal return to God is described, but the same is expected of God’s people. Because when the other nine lepers do not return to give thanks and refuse to repent together with the Samaritan, they do not allow the Lord’s words to be fulfilled about the gathering of God’s people, who in one accord confess and give thanks to God: “where there are two or three gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). The nine physically healed do not reach the depth of faith in Jesus and therefore remain in the state of physical healing without receiving spiritual healing, while the leper Samaritan becomes the leaven of God’s people, to whom the Lord commands: “let your light shine before men, that that they may see your good works and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matt. 5:16).

Should we not thank the One who helps us to reach the depth of the Samaritan healed of leprosy, to show ourselves as a congregation that believes in the gospel and testifies to God’s providence among our countrymen?

Lord, grant us to reach the height of faith that You found in the tenth leper, and teach us how to acquire love for Your gospel! Bless the leaven of Your new people, which You have sown in the dough of our world, and sanctify it for its salvation!

Source: ” My flock” newspaper, no. 3, 2022 (in Arabic)

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