28th Sunday of the Year (c) 2016
Leprosy: ‘chronic infectious decease…characterized by the formation of painful inflamed nodules beneath the skin and disfigurement and wasting of affected parts. Sounds nasty; and is! ‘ It’s not very common these days, especially in Europe; thank God. Can you imagine having leprosy, with its disfigurement and wasting away of the affected parts. Because it was infectious the lepers weren’t allowed into towns or villages, but had to stay outside in special colonies; they weren’t allowed to come near people. It must have been awful the day you realised you had leprosy. I suppose it could be compared to the day someone learns they have cancer, or some other possible terminal decease. It would be a life changing moment. The only person a leper can now mix with are other lepers. He daren’t mix with his/her own family in case they are infected.
We are told that the ten lepers in the gospel were all cured. We don’t know what the other nine did but we are told that one of them, finding himself cured, praised God at the top of his voice. I am sure the others did something similar. However, only one of them went back to thank Jesus; and look at the way he did it: he didn’t go up to him and shake his hand, no, we are told, he threw himself at the feet of Jesus.’ That’s such a humble gesture. When you are on the ground you can’t look up. But he thanked Jesus for what he had done.
Now the irony of the story is that this man was a foreigner, not a Jew, like the other nine. They would have gone to the priest because that is what the law said they should do when cured. But they didn’t turn back and thank Jesus. And Jesus notices this. He asks: “were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they?” We don’t know. Scripture doesn’t tell us. Probably celebrating somewhere. We christians have been taught to say thank you. Not to take anything for granted but to show gratitude for favours granted. Such an experience can be life changing. We don’t know about the other nine but we know that at least one of them did not take it all for granted. It was a life changing experience for him. As you could imagine. One day you are dying slowly of the most appalling of illnesses, the next you are completely healed.
I’d like to think that it changed this samaritan’s life. In fact, I’d like to believe that he was the one who helped the man who had falled into the hands of thieves. You know they story. Jesus tells us of the good samaritan who did a good turn for someone who had been beaten up; how he dressed his wounds and put him up in a kind of hotel and paid for his accomodation. We are not told why he did it, but wouldn’t it be nice to think that he was the leper who was healed miraculously by Jesus. We don’t know if he was but we do know that both men were Samaritans.
I suppose in our own lives we don’t suffer from lebrosy, so we don’t experience miracles. However, God in Christ is healing us all the time. We don’t have lebrosy but we do have sins, and sins are like a desease; only you don’t see them on your skin. Sometimes our sins can be really bad; then can be destroying our lives and the lives of those closest to us. Jesus wants to heal such sins as much as he wanted to heal the ten lepers of their leprosy. All we have to do is to ask him, and say, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner”. He will hear our prayer. However, what is important is to thank him afterwards, not to take our forgiveness for granted. The 9 lepers were healed but it didn’t appear to make any difference to their lives; the Samaritan was also healed but his healing changed him. He gave thanks to God in Jesus Christ.
Most of us don’t have big sins, at least not really big ones, but we do sin, and on a daily basis. That’s not my insight that comes from scripture: the just man, it says, falls seven times a day. To be aware of our sins is important, because then we know how merciful the Lord has been to us. And knowing that we should thank Him. It is the person who is aware of his sins, but also his healing, who will do great things for the Lord. Because he or she will be humble; and God can do great things through the humble person. He wants to do great things through all of us and the more we are aware of His mercy, the greater things we will do. You see, we are not here to be like the other 9 lepers, we are here to make a difference; and by my healing I know that God is being merciful to me; I therefore, must go out and be merciful to others, like the Good Samaritan.