The Ten Lepers / Conception of Theotokos
The Gospel reading for this Sunday tells us of the ten lepers who stood afar off – ostracized by their disease and utterly cast off from society. As Jesus was passing by they lifted up their voices and shouted: ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’
Our Lord Jesus Christ heard their cries and had compassion upon them. He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was, that as they went, they were cleansed from their horrible infirmity.
The nine who were healed, continued straight away to the priests to be declared clean and able to re-enter the community. One of them, who was a despised Samaritan, upon seeing his cure, turned back and ran to Jesus and fell down at His feet, giving Him thanks.
Jesus answered and said: ‘Were there not ten that were cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him: ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’
On this day we also celebrate the conception of the Mother of God by St Anna. St Anna was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She was married to St Joachim, who was a native of Galilee. For so many years, they were childless, suffering the terrible reality of their barrenness. But, through their fervent prayers and by the design of God, an angel announced to them that they would be the parents of a daughter, who would bring blessings to the whole human race.
There is a beautiful connection between these two commemorations assigned for this day… we have on one hand the conception of the Mother of God by St Anna and on the other hand the Gospel account appointed for today about the ten lepers.
What is this connection?
In both cases we see the healing grace and divine providence of God.
The ten were afflicted by the horrible disease of leprosy. The beloved handmaiden of God, Anna, was afflicted with a barren womb. Both St Anna and the ten lepers were touched by the mercy and the grace of God and were healed of their afflictions.
Both of these accounts of the mercy and grace of God have much to teach us about our own hope of healing.
In the case of St Anna, we see the suffering of barrenness. Don’t you and I also suffer from this affliction in a spiritual sense? Most of are weighed down by the barrenness of our spiritual life. We may wish that our spiritual life was more healthy and that we might bear fruit… but we find ourselves day after day and week after week struggling with a spiritual dryness… our prayer life is feeble and our minds are distracted when we do indeed try to pray. As much as we may wish to live by Christ’s commandments to love God above all else and to love our neighbor as ourselves, we are constantly falling back into our petty selfishness. As the Apostle Paul himself laments: ‘For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice… I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!’
We must thank God too, that we may be delivered from our spiritual barrenness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Just as St Anna was delivered from her barrenness, so too may we be delivered from our spiritual barrenness by God’s grace. Becoming fruitful in our spiritual life depends upon our trust and love for God and our willingness to submit ourselves to Him.
And what might we learn from the account of the ten lepers? Well, we see again the power of the mercy and love of God to heal any affliction. But there is also something particularly important from this Gospel account. While the ten were all healed of their infirmity, only the humble Samaritan returned to Jesus Christ to fall down at His feet and give Him thanks.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must cultivate this understanding and this heart of gratitude to God for all of His blessings… both known and unknown to us.
Do we realize our indebtedness to God? Every breath we take, every beat of our heart, every moment of our life is a gift from God. If only we had this awareness, this humble and thankful heart of gratitude to God… our lives and our perception of things would be illumined with Grace and Love and Joy.
No matter what our present circumstances may be – we have so much to be thankful for! Every day that we wake up to the rising of the sun is a gift from the lovingkindness of our Almighty God! How will we spend this day? How will we make best use of the moments expanding out before us?
Let us give thanks to God! Let us not take anything for granted! If we live our life in the conscious awareness of the generosity of God, we will perceive and rejoice in the miracle that is life... And if we can hold on to that conscious awareness of the goodness and generosity of God, our minds and hearts and souls will begin to receive healing. And having received some measure of healing, our barren souls can begin to bring forth spiritual fruit. Let us take the good example of that one leper who returned to give thanks to God, that we may also hear the words of our Lord: ‘Arise and go your way, your faith has made you well.’