10 - Healing of Ten Lepers, December 6, 2015

Hebrews 13:17-21 (Saint)

Ephesians 6:10-17

Luke 6:10-17 (Saint)

Luke 17:12-19

It says that these ten lepers stood afar off and cried out: “Jesus, Master! Have mercy on us!” I recognize this. It is the experience of the soul in prayer; or rather, of that soul who has awakened to the reality of her death and begins to cry out to the LORD in fear because she now begins to see her uncleanness that separates her eternally from God.

There is a fear of death that leads to depression and despair. That is a fear of hopelessness. It leads to paralysis and inaction.

But, there is a fear of death that leads to hope and generates action, the action of faith, of turning the face of one’s soul toward the LORD and crying out from afar off, “Jesus, Master! Have mercy on us!” The sign that this is a holy fear of death is that it already begins to cleanse the soul. In this fear, every mask is stripped away, every pretense, every trace of self-righteousness and entitlement. Seeing how she has behaved with an arrogance and conceit that have rendered her blind and deaf to the LORD, and in the way she has treated and spoken of others in unkindness, in anger, in hatred, the soul sees that she has lost every right to expect mercy from God. Yet, that makes her to cry out all the more for the LORD to have mercy on her because she wants to be cleansed. And, the deeper into her gut her cry goes, the deeper is her cleansing until every trace of self-righteousness and entitlement are washed away. In that cleansing, even though she does not yet ‘feel’ any action of divine mercy on her, there is already a certain softening, even a certain enlarging of her heart. For, she has descended into the chamber of her heart that is deep beyond all things. There, she finds herself beyond all grievances and enmity embracing all those around her and crying out to the LORD: “Jesus, Master! Have mercy on us!”

Is there such a vision in the fear of death that produces despair? Is not this fear fueled by the anger of an unmitigated self-pity? There is no consciousness of one’s uncleanness or selfishness and lack of mercy to others; only of one’s imminent dissolution and the injustice of it all.

In the prayer of a holy fear of death, the soul stands “afar off” and cries out to the LORD in hope;for, she has heard that the LORD is deeply merciful and compassionate, and that He does not despise a broken and contrite heart – precisely the kind of heart born from this holy fear of death.

Let the soul, then, that has awakened to a holy fear of death, but perhaps even more the soul that is caught in the fear of despair, study closely how the cleansing of the lepers takes place in this morning’s Gospel. The LORD gives them a command: “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And, it came to pass, it says, that as they made their way to the priests, they were cleansed. Do you see? They were cleansed as they submitted in obedience to His command.

It says in the Psalm, “Let all the earth fear the LORD! Let all the inhabitants of the world shake with fear, for He spoke and they came to be. He commanded and they were created.” (Ps 32:9-10 OSB/LXX) The word of the LORD’s command is life-creating. The world was obedient to the LORD’s command, and it came into existence. But, it didn’t just exist. It was very good. There was no death in it. (Wisd of Sol 1:13-14)

Remember that God gave to Adam and Eve a commandment after placing them in the garden to work it and to keep it. The holy fathers teach that the commandment was given so that Adam and Eve could practice obedience and so attain to the likeness of God. When they disobeyed the command, they died on that very day for in their heart they turned their face against God and so separated themselves from Him who is the Life and the Resurrection.

But Jesus, the Second Adam was obedient to the Word of the Father even to the point of death on the Cross; and, by His obedience even unto death, His death became life-creating.

Note well, then, how the ten lepers are cleansed by their obedience. But note also that the obedience the LORD gives to them was not hard at all. It was an obedience they could easily keep.

The commandments of the LORD heal, they restore, they create life, they even raise those who are dead in their sins and trespasses from death to life.

Therefore, to enter into the joy of the LORD that is full of life and healing, practice obedience to the commandments of Christ.

Children, obey your parents. Respect your elders and your teachers, especially those in the Church, for the word of the Church’s teaching is the word of God by whom heaven and earth were created and death destroyed to become the beginning of our life in the Holy Resurrection of Christ.

Parents, teach your children to be obedient and respectful. Don’t let them get away with disrespectful and disobedient behavior. Hold them accountable to the standards of respectful obedience. Help them develop internal discipline by providing them with external discipline. Training a child in the way he should go is a high, holy calling.  

Husbands and wives, submit to one another in the love of Christ and His Holy Church. Be faithful to one another not only in your bodies but with your eyes and in your thoughts and in your souls as well. Young man, young woman, guard your virginity.

Everyone, within the obedience proper to your station, work to put to death what is earthly in you, viz., arrogance, conceit, all sense of entitlement, filthy talk, impure desires, anger. Keep inner vigilance over your thoughts; guard what comes into your soul through the windows of your eyes and ears and work, even fight to keep the face of your soul trained on the LORD Jesus Christ in obedience to His commandments. For, they carry His Holy Spirit and they are full of healing and life, faith, hope, joy and love.

So then, what are we to make of the one Samaritan leper who alone returned to the Savior in Thanksgiving and to give glory to God? To this leper alone do we hear the Savior say, “Your faith has saved you.”

It says that when he saw he was healed, he turned – can we say he repented? – and with a loud voice glorified God. He fell on his face at the feet of Jesus and gave thanks to Him. I think St Luke is playing like Sergeant Friday of Dragnet again. Who do you glorify with such heart-felt fervor if not the one you’ve fallen in love with? See how deeply this Samaritan’s obedience to the LORD’s command had penetrated into his soul and cleansed him! For, was not this Samaritan leper, in turning to worship and give thanks to the LORD Jesus, doing exactly as Jesus had commanded him to do? Is not Jesus the great High Priest?

This brings us I think to the hidden joy of this morning’s Gospel. The LORD Jesus Christ became our high priest by offering His own blood once and for all in the sacrifice of His Cross; and in this, He cleansed our souls all the way down to the division of soul and spirit and into the heart. (Heb 4:12) But, this cleansing and healing and raising to life was but preparation for the great gift He would give to those who love Him and turn their face to Him in the loving obedience of faith: Himself. For, He Himself would come to dwell in us and to live in us so that we could become one with Him as partakers of His own divine glory and virtue. This and nothing less is the salvation of Christ’s Holy Church.

Would that the LORD would wake us up so that we would come to our senses and shake with the holy fear of death in the saving hope of the LORD’s deep compassion and great mercy and cry out unceasingly from the depths of our heart: “Jesus, Master! Have mercy on us!” Amen!