Reading: Luke 17.11-19
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘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 made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
Yesterday’s reading invited us to respond to God’s call to serve in a spirit of joy and gratitude, rather than in a spirit of reluctance, even resentment. This message is hammered home in today’s reading from St Luke’s gospel.
Today we encounter Jesus healing ten lepers. Leprosy is a general term used in scripture to denote an indeterminate disease which caused the sufferer to be considered an outcast from society. Lepers were driven away from home and work to live a life of isolation and poverty. To be healed of leprosy was a gift beyond the wildest of dreams. Imagine the things you would most dearly love to happen or to receive, the thing that would really change your life for ever. Then, double or even treble it. Now you are coming close to understanding what it would have meant to have been healed of leprosy.
Today we read of Jesus healing ten such people in one go. They clearly recognized him, and they undoubtedly knew of his reputation for healing. So, they approached him and asked: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! Jesus did not hesitate in his response. Jesus did not have a moment of thinking: ‘What again? Do I really have to do this?’ No, Jesus simply sent them off to the priests (the only ones who could proclaim them cured) in the knowledge that as they turned from him they would be healed.
Then comes the core of today’s message. As they realized that their leprosy had gone, only one of them took the trouble to turn back, prostrate himself before Jesus and offer thanks. What is more, the one who did this was a Samaritan. Samaritans were the ultimate social outsiders to the Jewish community. They did not share the Jewish faith, and to associate with a Samaritan was seen as making oneself ritually unclean. But … it was a ‘hated’ Samaritan that turned back and said: ‘Thank you for giving me a new life.’ The other nine were no less healed of their leprosy because of their ingratitude, but they do remain the ones for whom we have less respect.
None of us deserve God’s healing touch in our lives, and yet it is there for us whenever we ask for it. It may not come in the form of a miraculous cure, but it is there in the form of consolation and peace. We may not, having taken our problems to God, walk away with a physical cure but we will know the warmth and joy of God’s loving embrace if we will allow him to walk with us through the dark times. The love and the peace of God is something very special, it is unique. Surely, the only response to his undeserved grace can be one of gratitude. So, let us remember that our prayers should always be prayers of thanksgiving. Rather than constantly bombarding God with the negative things that frustrate us, let us simply say: ‘Thank you, God, for creating this marvellous world, and for giving us a place in it.’