There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger. And he said to him: Arise go thy way: for thy faith has made thee whole. (Lk 17:11-19)
My Dear Brethren,
Obscurity of the Epistle
It would be fair to say that today’s Epistle needs some light to expose the glittering jewels contained within it. It is not very comprehensible on first reading, but, with a little light, one can discern the whole story of the redemption. In the passage, three concepts are mentioned:
- the promise of Abraham to a single offspring;
- the Law of Moses which did not replace the promise and cannot replace the promise being of a substantially different nature and for a different purpose;
- the identifying of those who have faith in Christ, with Christ Himself.
The promise made to Abraham: I will bless them that bless you, and curse them that curse you, and IN THEE shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. (Gen 12:3) This was a promise to the offspring, a descendent of Abraham, who was Jesus Christ through whom all are blessed.
The Law of Moses, on the other hand, has nothing to do with the promise made to Abraham and so does not replace the promise:
- the Law was set because of the transgressions of the Jewish race, whereas the promise was a freely bestowed by God;
- the Law was given through intermediaries (angels and Moses), whereas the promise is given directly by God;
- the Law points out certain acts as sins, but it does not cleanse from sin, whereas the promise does justify. It justifies those of the Old Testament who believed in the offspring to come, Christ. And those of the New Testament who believe in Christ who now reigns over all creation.
By believing in Christ, we receive sanctifying grace by which we become, not only justified, but also one of His members; we become part of Him and so beneficiaries of the promise made to Him.
Link with the Gospel
At a first glance, the connection between the Epistle and the Gospel is not apparent, but if you look closer the two convey the same message - that we are truly heirs to the promise (which is the same as being truly healed) by faith in (and love of) Our Lord Jesus Christ:
- the Epistle explains this by the testimony of the Old Testament
- the Gospel explains this by the testimony of a miracle and the words of Christ Himself.
Horrors of Leprosy
Leprosy (from the Greek lepi, meaning scales on a fish), or Hansen's disease, is a chronic disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. It is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions are the primary external symptom. Left untreated, leprosy can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. Contrary to popular belief, leprosy does not directly cause body parts to fall off on their own accord; instead they become disfigured or amputated as a result of disease symptoms.
Historically, leprosy has affected mankind since over 9,000 years ago, and was well-recognized in the civilizations of ancient China, Egypt, and India, but it is unknown if it is the same disease mentioned in the Bible.
In 1995, the World Health Organization estimated that between 2 and 3 million people were permanently disabled because of leprosy. In the past 20 years, 15 million people worldwide have been cured of leprosy. Although the forced quarantine or segregation of patients is unnecessary in places where adequate treatments are available—and can be considered unethical—many leper colonies still remain around the world, in countries such as India (where there are still more than 1,000 leper colonies).
Sin is worse than leprosy
But no matter how bad leprosy is, it is better to have our fingers and toes amputated and to go blind than to be in a state of mortal sin. For mortal sin is self-exile from God’s presence, it is ripping God from the soul, it is choosing a mess of potage over the promise of eternal life.
The Leper made whole
Now, in the Gospel today, ten lepers were cured of their leprosy, but only one came back to thank Jesus. To this leper Jesus said “Thy faith has made thee whole”.
The stranger was truly cured, wholly cured by his act of faith animated by divine charity. He alone was whole among the ten lepers because both his body and soul were cured. He received the free gift of God called sanctifying grace.
Message for us
The practice of our religion should not be a protracted examination of conscience concerning the law or sin. Neither should we be preoccupied with bodily health and prosperity. The practice of our religion and the whole purpose for our existence is the knowledge (by faith and reason), love and service of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Our Lord Jesus Christ is the offspring of Abraham to Whom the promise is made;
- in Him all the nations are blessed and are cured of the profoundest of ills which is separation from God;
- and we become in Him in the measure that we believe and love Him supernaturally, in the measure that we become members of His Mystical Body by sanctifying grace.
Let us, like the leper, return and thank Our Lord for willing us to become part of Him. Let us beg through the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the sanctifying grace that makes us actually part of Him - the grace that heals us - so that He may say to us too: Arise go thy way: for thy faith has made thee whole.