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Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday of Luke

Archimandrite Kyril Jenner

Luke 17:12-19

Today we have heard Saint Luke’s account of the healing of ten lepers. We do not know what precise disease they were suffering from. It was almost certainly not what is known as leprosy today. It would have been some sort of infectious skin disease. With their bodies disfigured they were seen as less than perfect humans and were excluded from their community. We can also see such exclusion as being necessary on health grounds if their disease was contagious.

These men lived in an area where people from different nations lived together. More precisely they lived alongside each other but generally kept themselves apart from those of other backgrounds. In the story of our Lord’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well we are told that “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” (John 4:9) These lepers, however, in their suffering and in their exclusion from the rest of society had managed to overcome such differences and live together for mutual support.

Their disease meant that they had to stay away from other people, and we are told that they still did this when asking our Lord for help. “[They] stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ ” Our spiritual diseases cut us off from God. Yet even from afar off we can cry out to God for help and healing, and he will hear us, just as our Lord heard the ten lepers.

If we truly accept God’s healing then we will be changed. The lepers accepted that our Lord had healed them and found as they went on their way that the symptoms of their disease had disappeared. If we truly repent of our sins then God’s healing will change us and the consequences of our sins will disappear. Forgiveness from God allows us to make a new start. The healing of the lepers by our Lord gave them a new start in life.

How should we react when we are healed? The nine went off to fulfil their religious duty. The ritual prescribed is quite long, taking eight days and involving several sacrifices, a complete shaving of all the hair on the body, the washing of the clothes worn and of the body, and several anointings with oil. (Leviticus 14:2-32) This seems to have been long enough for the nine to forget how they were healed.

The Samaritan, being outside the Jewish community, was not involved in this ritual. Instead, when he saw that he was indeed healed, he went back to our Lord, and gave thanks to God for his mercy.

Sometimes we may suffer from a physical disease which requires us to isolate from our fellow humans for their benefit, so that they will not catch the infection from us. The ten lepers were in this situation. More often we suffer from spiritual diseases that isolate us from God. Yet in both cases God does not isolate himself from us. He hears our prayers when we approach him in humility and repentance. All healing comes ultimately from God.

When we are healed, whether from physical disease or from spiritual disease, we should give thanks to God for his mercy. He loves us. He sent his Son to us to bring us healing – the restoration of the wholeness for which we were created. He sent his Son to die for us on the Cross so that the consequences of our sins could be set aside. He raised his Son from the dead to show us the way to a new life – the life with God in eternity.

When we are healed our life should be changed. God has transformed us. That transformation should be visible in how we live. We should live for God and with God, instead of living just for ourselves.

Let us pray that we may not only seek healing from God, but also receive that healing through God’s mercy and compassion, and live our lives filled with the healing power of God’s love.