It doesn’t matter how much money and wealth you have, the most important thing in this life is that we have our health. Almost everyone will agree with this statement. Those of us who know what it means to be sick – really sick – know especially the meaning of this statement.
And, at times, those who have their health can be like the wealthy described throughout Scriptures. Like the rich man who paid no heed to poor Lazarus, who didn’t think of helping or feeding anyone but himself. Like the rich man who had abundant crops so that his barns were too small that he couldn’t fit all of his good in them so he built larger barns. Or, even like the man who comes to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit everlasting life and when the Lord tells him to sell everything he had he sadly walks away.
And this morning’s reading from the gospel deals with a couple of very sick people. Ten of them to be exact. And it wasn’t just some passing illness they had. They had a death sentence: they had leprosy. It’s an infectious skin disease and it’s mentioned 55 times in the Old Testament and 13 times in the New Testament. And so serious of a disease was it that those infected by it were commanded by the Law of Moses to be cast out from the community. We read in the Book of Numbers: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous…You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell” (Num. 5:1-3).
That’s just how the lepers are described in the gospel this morning. St. Luke writes that as Jesus was going to Jerusalem He passed through Samaria and Galilee and He was met by ten lepers “who stood afar off”. Meaning, because of their highly infectious disease they were not allow to come in contact with people or enter the villages. Yet, even though they stood ‘afar off’ they still tried their hardest to have their voices heard and so they yelled out, or as St. Luke says: “they lifted their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
That’s exactly what Jesus did. He showed His mercy upon them and healed them. You know, at one place in the gospels we read how St. John the Baptist hears about this man named Jesus but he isn’t sure that this is the Coming One they’ve been waiting for. So he sends out two of his disciples to Jesus to ask Him, “Are you the Coming One or is there another one we are to wait for?” And Jesus answered them and said: “Go and tell John the things which you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised…” (Luke 7:22). All of these miracles, including the one described in the gospel this morning, they all attest to the fact that Jesus is Lord, the Son of God.
Only in a world where there is no God are miracles impossible. Just as Jesus proves to John’s disciples that He is Lord because of the miracles He has done, so too does God reveal Himself in our lives through all the many miracles that happen to us everyday. Granted, they might be what we would refer to as little miracles but the point is God works in our lives whether we know it or not. Chances are we don’t. Similarly, there were ten lepers healed in this morning’s gospel but only one found it necessary to go back and thank Jesus. The rest of them, even though only moments ago they had all found enough strength to yell out Lord have mercy on us, now like the wealthy of this world they forgot God and only thought of themselves.
They had the opportunity – through the healing of their bodily illness – to find healing in their souls. To heal that part of them that will never grow old and will never die. Yet that which they could clearly see when they were sick now ingratitude blinded them in their health.
That’s one of main reasons we go to church. We go to worship and praise God but ultimately, as the Psalm says, we go “to give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His love endures forever”. To thank God for all the many blessings in our lives so that through our gratitude our souls might be healed as well. As we pray at the liturgy “for every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from Thee, and to The do we ascribe glory: to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Amen.