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  • Fr. Athanasius Oweis

Healing the Ten Lepers - January 16th 2022

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."

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.

In the Mediterranean culture, gift giving in big occasions like weddings, graduations, or any joyful occasion, has a certain interesting twist. As an example, when Sara & I got married, we received so many gifts, there was not the concept of registry as is here so everyone brings what they would like to offer as a gift. Sometimes they would give cash not just non-monetary gifts. My mom, as any Mediterranean would do, made a list with each family name and what their gift was, and saved this list because it will come up handy later. So when the day comes, and family A now has an event, and it is our turn to bring a gift, we would go back to this magical list, and see what was the value of family A's gift to us, say a 100 dollars, and now we know that our gift would be in the range of 100 dollars, not more, because then it would be too much.

However, this is not what Jesus did, this is not what he does, and this is not who He is. He never gives us what we deserve.

This benevolence shows amazingly in today's Gospel when he healed the ten lepers. He knew beforehand that nine of them will be ungrateful. He knew beforehand that nine of them will use Him for their own benefit. He knew beforehand that nine of them when they cried: “Master” which means “Teacher” that they didn’t mean it, he was never going to be their master. They will forget Him the minute they are healed. And yet, He still healed them.

Doesn’t he do the same with many of us? Many of us who resemble these nine lepers cry to him only when we need him, when we are sick, when we are without a job, without a spouse, in a financial trouble, in distress. We cry: “Master, Have mercy on us”. We think that we are praying, but in fact we are not. We are trying to use God. And as soon as our adversity passes, some of us forget Christ. And God knows that, and yet He is still benevolent to us because this is who He is. When Christ gives, he gives without measure. He does not give us what we deserve. He gives us what we don’t deserve. As Saint Paul says in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He gives Himself.

What is magnificent about today’s miracle is that Christ did not heal them immediately but told them to go show themselves to the priests. The act of going to the priest should only take place after someone is healed from leprosy according to the law. And yet he told them to go even though they were not healed yet, and they were healed as they were going. He could have told them “I will, be healed”, as St. Cyril of Alexandria notes, but he did not, because He wants to increase their faith, and He wants to confirm the role of the priests and the importance of the priesthood. Even though He himself is the greatest High Priest, which shows His great humility.

As for the Samaritan that returned and gave thanks, Christ told him a very important statement that should be a lesson to all of us. He told him: “Your faith has made you well”, “Your faith has healed you”. While at the first instance it might seem that He meant that his faith has healed him physically, but that is not what Christ meant. He could have said: “Your faith has healed all of you”, quite the contrary, He showed His disappointment with the nine jews who left ungrateful. Christ told the Samaritan, as He tells every single one of us today: Your faith has healed you. This healing is not just physical, but rather spiritual. The physical healing is temporary, and is good for little, but what we all need is the spiritual healing. The healing from anxiety, stress, insecurity, fear, anger, lust, and all the evil things mentioned in today’s epistle: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. This spiritual healing takes place only when we are thankful and give praise to God. The Church has this teaching as the center pillar of her liturgical life when in the Divine Liturgy, the mystery of the Eucharist is given. The Eucharist, which originates from the word “Ευχαριστία”, means Thanksgiving. The center of our worship life is thanksgiving to God. We tell him how good He is, how loving He is, how magnificent is His works, in wisdom He has made it all. What he went through for us, the incarnation, the theophany, the transfiguration, and the passions, and everything that he went through for us all the way till the resurrection. The only way to do it is to re-live what He did and give thanks. When you give thanks you depart yourself and you think of Him who is giving you, Him who is blessing you, Him who is protecting you, how much are you being loved by Him. You feel overwhelmed, over-loved, over-protected, undeserving, speechless, and humbled. Thanksgiving is vital because it transforms you slowly into Him, into His image. The center of our Liturgical worship is thanksgiving, and the center of our whole life should be thanksgiving. Take a moment, and think, how much you are given. How much you are protected. How much you are in need to be focused on Him all your life.

This is why St. Paul in the beginning of today’s Epistle, he said: “Brethren, when Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Christ who is our life! Can you believe it? Can we truly say that Christ is our life? Or is our careers our life? Our family or children? Our finances? The Church tells you that Christ is your life. Nothing else. The only way to do it is to be grateful, and give “Ευχαριστία” that is what is meet unto Christ. Hence you feel the strength, the peace that is beyond all peace, and how much life is really worth nothing if it was not for Christ.

May God give us the gratitude of this Samaritan, and help us in our walk of spiritual healing through the intercessions of the Mother of God and St. Peter whom chains we venerate today and all the saints, Amen.

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