The episode is well-known. Jesus cures ten lepers, sending them to the priests. The priests are to authorize the return of the healed lepers to their families. The account could have ended here. The evangelist is interested, however, in highlighting the reaction of one of them.
Once cured, the lepers disappear from the scene. We know nothing about them. It seems as if nothing has happened with their lives. One of them, however, realizing he has been healed, understands that he has just received a great gift: God is the source of that healing. Excited, he returns glorifying God in a loud voice and thanking Jesus.
Commentaries in general interpret the Samaritan’s reaction as pointing to the theme of thanksgiving: the other nine are ungrateful; only the one who has returned knows how to be thankful. This, certainly, is what the story appears to suggest. But Jesus does not speak of gratitude. He says that the Samaritan has returned glorifying God. And giving praise to God is much more than saying thanks.
In the context of the history of a person tested with illnesses, pains and afflictions, healing is a privileged experience that gives rise to the giving of glory God. A famous quote from St. Irenaeus of Lyon says, The glory of God is man fully alive. This healed body of the leper is a body that sings glory to God.
We think we know everything about how our organism functions, yet the healing of a serious illness never fails to surprise us still. It is always a “mystery” to experience within ourselves how life recovers, how our strength is reinforced, and how our trust and freedom grow.
Few experiences could be so radical and basic as that of healing so that we get a taste of victory in the face of evil, of the triumph of life over the threat of death. That is why, when we are healed, we are offered the possibility of welcoming in a wholly new way the God who comes to us as the foundation of our being and the font of new life.
Modern medicine allows many people today to live the process of healing much more frequently than in times past. We have to thank those who cure us, but our healing can be, additionally, the occasion and stimulus to begin a new relationship with God. We can pass from indifference to faith, from rejection to welcoming, from doubt to trust, from fear to love.
This wholesome welcome from God can cure us of fears, emptiness and wounds that hurt us. It can make us have deep roots in life in a more healthy and free manner. It can wholly heal us.
October 9, 2016
28 Sunday in O.T. (C)
Luke 17, 11-19