The fourteenth Sunday After Trinity
In the Gospel appointed for the 14th Sunday in Trinity-Tide, we encounter Jesus and his disciples traveling between the territories of Samaria and the Galilee, on their way to Jerusalem. Ten lepers standing far from the mainstream flow of traffic due to their ‘unclean’ and terribly diseased state, begin calling after Jesus. With hoarse voices they shout as loud as their leper-ridden throats will allow, “Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us.”
With great compassion and mercy Jesus tells them to go and show themselves to the Priests, thereby assuming that as they were going, they would somehow be cured of their leprosy and rid of the plague which rendered them a community unto themselves: a community of the ‘unclean’.
And as the ten departed they were miraculously healed, cured from head to toe, no longer unclean but clean. “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice, glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving thanks: and he was a Samaritan." Ten healed but only one returned, and he, a Samaritan... an outsider. From a redemptive-historical perspective we see a picture of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah (nine Israelites received the mercy of God and yet did not glorify Him) and, how the saving work of Christ would go beyond Israel into the nations (but one a Samaritan returned!), as God promised to the prophet Hosea,
“I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.”
Here is a picture of two very different responses to God’s healing salvation. The nine are like so many consumers who come to Christ and his church to get what they need without any sense of gratitude or duty to the One from whom they have received their healing. They are the very picture of ingratitude: “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asks. Why are they not praising God? Where is their recognition of the gracious healing they have received from Jesus? Surely they were as capable as the Samaritan to express gratitude? Yes. But, consumerism knows no gratitude. And, even when the consumer is temporally satiated, his self-focused religion breeds nothing but ingratitude.
The Samaritan Leper however does not content himself with merely having received such great benefits. He (unlike the nine) will also praise this most Holy Benefactor. For he is the very picture of gratitude, the one who has received from God that which he could not do for himself; not only his body made clean but his soul washed as well; receiving divine medicine for the forgiveness of sins. For the Lord Jesus says to the man at his feet,
“Rise up, go thy way, thy faith hath saved thee...”
Jesus cured ten people sick with leprosy, a sickness in that time considered a contagious impurity requiring a rite of purification. In reality, the leprosy that truly disfigures is the sin which lurks within the mind, the will, and the heart; for pride and egotism give birth in the spirit to unholy indifference. Only Jesus Christ, who is Love, can cure this leprosy of the soul, which makes lepers of us all, disfiguring the face of our humanity. It is only by opening the heart to God, being open to His ministry within us, that the unclean person is healed interiorly of wickedness and sin.
But note: It is faith which saves us. The healing of salvation is a gift that even if it comes through people or nature, in the end, comes wholly and completely from God. Saving faith demands an openness towards Christ, being open to his gracious activity. All is gift and all is grace. The healing mercy of the Lord restored the leper to what he was first created to be: Homo Adorans, the worshiping man.
St. Luke writes, "he returned and with full voice, praised Christ loudly." This former leper who, after he had first with hoarse voice desperately called on the Redeemer, immediately returns after his healing in order with loud voice to give God the glory! Christ redeems us to re-make us into what we were always meant to be, worshippers: giving thanks to God for our healing, our restoration, and the newness of the resurrected life! And be assured, genuine gratitude is always met with grace... always.
Beloved, we have come into the Lord’s house today as lepers in need of healing, the unclean in desperate need of being made clean once again. And we find this healing in receiving the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, here at his altar. For in these great and holy mysteries we receive all of the goodness, kindness, and mercy of God by eating of these divine mysteries.
And like the leper, we too are unworthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under His table. Yet, by eating the flesh of Jesus Christ our sinful bodies are made clean, and our souls are washed through his most precious blood. In partaking of the Lord's Supper we not only remember the gift of salvation, but participate in the very life of our Savior Jesus Christ, the Life of the world renewing and sustaining us as heaven and earth collide and we enjoy such wonderful and mysterious union with our Lord.
And what great thing does He ask, in requiring us to be thankful in return for such tender care? Fidelity, Devotion, and Obedience. Therefore, let us then obey Him, and in every place and in all aspects of our lives continually do all things unto his glory. So with all sincerity of heart, let us prepare ourselves to receive this Divine healing, and with the hope of eternal life, let us take this Life into the world, to those who stand a far, that they might not only receive the saving mercy of Christ, but come and worship the living God who gave himself for the Life of the world. Amen.