Homily for the twenty-eighth Sunday of the year - Year C - Lk. 17:11-19
Father Daniel Meynen
"On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, '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 cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, 'Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?' And he said to him, 'Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.' "
"On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.' "
God created man in his image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26). The Lord gave man a body and a soul, in order that, through these two elements, of which he is composed, man might truly be the creature closest to God, and, at the same time, the summary of all creation. For, in the universe the Lord created in his Love, there are, at one extreme, material beings which are always composite and multiple; and at the other extreme, spiritual beings - the angels - which are always simple and unique. Thus, in man, God joined together that which is multiple - in his body - and that which is unique - in his soul. And thus, the Lord created in man a being that resembles him, since, in his infinite Love, God is multiple divine Persons, eternally united to each other.
So how could the Loving Creator allow men and women to be prey to everything that seeks to destroy their bodies and their souls? God wants to save all men, and all of the man. The Son of God came into the world and was made man in order that, through the redeeming Sacrifice of the Cross, eternal Life, the very Life of God, might one day belong to the entire man, body and soul. So, when these ten lepers go to meet Christ, the Lord Jesus cannot fail to think of his Mission: that of healing bodies, but also, and especially, souls! While Jesus wants to heal these ten men of the leprosy that oppresses and disfigures them, he intends, first, to touch the soul of each one of them individually, in order that the image of God might be fully restored there.
"When he saw them he said to them, 'Go and show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went they were cleansed."
Jesus saw them... He saw the ugliness of their bodies, and especially that of their faces... They had lost that beauty which is a reflection of the splendor of the Creator... But Jesus also saw the soul of each one of them. For some, their soul was even uglier than their body... For others, Jesus saw that in their soul there was still that vestige of the first creation, a vestige upon which the Blood of his supreme Sacrifice would soon be poured for the final Resurrection! Already, looking at them, Jesus saw all the elect of God, on humanity's last Day, gathered together in order to go up with him to his Father, in an eternal encounter with God! So, having taken a good look at them, Jesus did not hesitate to give them an order, he who is the Master of all Creation: "Go and show yourselves to the priests."
All ten of the lepers obeyed the order of the Lord: they went and showed themselves to the priests. In fact, all lepers, once they were healed, had to show themselves to the priests in order for their healing to be officially acknowledged and thus for them to regain the right to live among others. But, surprisingly, when the ten lepers set out to go and show themselves to the priests, they were not yet healed, or at least not yet in their bodies... It was only after they had begun their journey that they found themselves to have been healed of leprosy! In fact, they had already been healed in their souls, and it is this spiritual healing, the most important in the eyes of God, which allowed them to set out on their journey, on the road that would be the setting of their corporeal healing...
"Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, 'Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?' And he said to him, 'Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.' "
So the ten lepers are healed! But, astonishingly, only one of the ten thought of retracing his steps in order to thank the Lord for having healed him... Perhaps the nine others thanked God in their hearts? In any case, they were all healed. This is clearly what follows from the words of the Lord: "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?" One may assume that all ten received from God the grace necessary to go to Jesus and thank him for having healed them. But, unfortunately, only one man faithfully responded to the Lord's call...
This is a lesson for all of us, a lesson of vigilance and gratitude towards divine Providence. The path of spiritual life, represented by the road taken by the ten lepers, is a difficult path, one that is sometimes filled with obstacles. Only he who is vigilant follows the right way, which is Christ (cf. Jn. 14:6). Moreover, this Way is the only one that saves: "And he said to him, 'Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.' " On the Way of Salvation, everything matters: it is our entire person, both body and soul, that must give thanks to God. We should not follow Jesus from afar: we must be very close to him, in our faith, our hope, our charity, but also in our body, just like Mary, a strong woman who stood at the foot of the Cross! The Savior of men is not a being who is absent and distant from us: he is here, nearby, so close that he comes into us at each Eucharist!