2012 - Vol. 56
Healing of the Ten Suffering from Leprosy
Master, Have Mercy!”
By Jeanne Kun
makes us see the good. When we are grateful, we acknowledge that we are
indebted, that we have received more than we deserve. . . . What we need
is to have some “Samaritan” in us; what we need is to follow our natural
instinct to be grateful. The first characteristic of the Christian is to
Archbishop Marcel Gervais,Homily at Notre Dame
the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria
and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping
their distance, they called out, saying, “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 made clean. Then one of them, when
he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.
He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are
they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this
foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go your way; your faith has
made you well.”
a dreaded disease in biblical times. Besides suffering physical disability
and disfigurement, a person afflicted with leprosy was considered ritually
unclean and was forbidden to come into contact with healthy people (Leviticus
13:45-46). Segregated from society, those suffering from leprosy lived
on the outskirts of towns and begged for alms, relying on charity for their
The ten whom
Jesus healed in the gospel story were drawn together by their common affliction.
Since Jews despised Samaritans as apostates – people who rejected the faith
– the two groups usually avoided each other (2 Kings 17:24-41; Matthew
10:5; Luke 9:52-55; John 4:90). But in the desperation of their condition,
these people ignored this customary animosity and shared a fellowship of
their “uncleanness” and the risk of transmitting their contagious disease,
the ten were careful not to approach Jesus too closely when they cried,
“Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13). The distance they kept, however,
presented no barrier to Jesus’ compassion and power.
heal these people on the spot; instead, he commanded them to show themselves
to the priests (Luke 17:14). Mosaic law stipulated that a cure of leprosy
had to be certified by the priests (Leviticus 14:1-32) – in this way, a
person was declared clean and was no longer a social outcast. Sensitive
to every aspect of their pain, Jesus’ intent was not only to restore these
people to health but also to ensure that they would be fully restored to
normal society by officially receiving a “clean bill of health.”
group of people had heard about the wonders Jesus was performing throughout
Galilee; their cry for mercy was filled with expectant faith. If they already
believed that he could make them whole again, they may have left Jesus
filled with rising hopes and confidence. Or, still marked by the ravages
of their disease, they may have departed with disappointment, wondering
how the priests would respond to them. In any case, it was only after they
went on their way, obeying Jesus’ directive, that they were cured (Luke
As soon as
one of the ten – a Samaritan (Luke 17:16) – became aware of his healing,
he raced back to Jesus, loudly praising God (17:15). No waiting for a more
convenient moment for him! He simply couldn’t let the master go without
thanking him right away. And when the Samaritan found Jesus, he threw himself
at his feet (17:16) – the proper place to humbly acknowledge how undeserving
he was of God’s mercy and to give thanks. Surely such an expression of
gratitude brought Jesus great pleasure.
of the Samaritan recalls the prophet Elisha’s encounter in Samaria with
Namaan, a foreigner who also suffered from leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14). Initially
Namaan balked at Elisha’s command to wash in the Jordan River, but when
he eventually obeyed the prophet, “his flesh was restored like the flesh
of a young boy, and he was clean” (5:14). He returned from the river to
thank Elisha for his cure and honored the God of Israel (5:15). Namaan’s
cleansing through water is a type of baptism. The story also points toward
the adoption of foreigners into God’s covenant and the universality of
salvation (Isaiah 56:3-8). Similarly, the gospel account of the leprous
Samaritan’s faith is a prelude to the influx of many Samaritans in to the
church through the preaching of the apostles, after Jesus resurrection
(Acts 8:5-8, 14-17, 25).
words to the Samaritan – “your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19) –
echo his message to the woman he cured of a hemorrhage (8:48). Like her,
the grateful man was given far more than physical wellbeing. Through his
faith and obedience, he had received wholeness of body and spirit, peace,
and friendship with God in Christ.
is a chronic infectious disease that mainly affects the eyes, skin, peripheral
nerves, and mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract. It was known
in ancient Egypt, Israel, India, China, Greece, and Rome. In the Middle
Ages, leprosy also spread rapidly across Europe. To protect the populace
from contagion, strict laws were enacted that banned those afflicted with
the disease from all social contact. There was little palliative treatment
for the disease and no hope for a cure. As a consequence, in addition to
their physical afflictions, leprosy sufferers also bore the stigma of being
“outcasts,” rejected and excluded from society. By the fifteenth century
leprosy had declined in Europe, but the disease is still common in India,
Brazil, Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Nepal, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Mozambique,
Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
1873 a Norwegian doctor, Gerhard Hansen, first identified the bacillus
of leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae. Today leprosy is curable with Multidrug
Therapy (MDT), a powerful combination of clofazimine, rifampicin, and dapsone.
Once treatment begins, the disease’s advance in the body is halted and
the patient is no longer contagious. At the beginning of 2005, approximately
300,000 leprosy patients were under active treatment worldwide.
million leprosy patients have been cured during the past fifteen years.
Nonetheless, Hansen’s disease, as leprosy is now called, still remains
a serious illness. Currently, an estimated two to four million people around
the world have been so visibly and irreversibly disabled by leprosy that
they require ongoing care.
in Power: The Miracles of Jesus, by Jeanne Kun (The
Word Among Us Press, © 2006). Used with permission. This
book can be ordered online.
Kun is President of Bethany
Association and a senior woman leader in the Word
of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Thanks – and Joy – to Jesus
is evident from the whole teaching of scripture that the Lord loves to
be thanked and praised just as much as we do. I am sure that it gives him
real downright pleasure, just as it does us and that our failure to thank
him for his gifts wounds his loving heart, just as our hearts are wounded
when our loved ones fail to appreciate the benefits we have so enjoyed
bestowing on them.
What joy it is to receive from our friends an acknowledgment of their thanksgiving
for our gifts, and is it not likely that it is a joy to the Lord also?
Hannah Whitall Smith,
He Leads Me
With what attitude do you think the ten people with leprosy approached
Jesus? What does Jesus’ command to them (Luke 17:14) suggest to you about
the relationship between obedience and faith? Did Jesus always require
that those he healed have faith?
List the verbs that describe the Samaritan’s successive actions in response
to his healing (Luke 17:15-16). What do these actions say about the man’s
relationship to God? Think of others in the gospels who prostrated themselves
at the feet of Jesus, for example, the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:25),
Jairus (Luke 8:41-42), and Mary of Bethany (John 11:42; 12:3). What did
they express by their posture?
Jesus asked the Samaritan, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine,
where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God
except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18)? In what tone of voice do you think
he asked these questions? Why? What do Jesus’ questions add to your understanding
of him? Of his relationship with the Father?
Why was it significant that it was “this foreigner” (Luke 17:18) who gave
thanks to God? What does the Samaritan’s presence in this story indicate
about Jesus’ mission? About Jesus himself?
What similarities do you see in the healing of the ten people with leprosy
and the healing of the paralyzed man (Luke 5:17-26)? What differences?
What do the differences as well as the similarities suggest to you about
Jesus, the Great Physician?
the Words of the Saints
better words may we carry in our heart, pronounce with our mouth, write
with a pen, than the words, “Thanks be to God”? There is no phrase that
may be said so readily, that can be heard with greater joy, felt with more
emotion or produced with greater effect.
St. Augustine, Letter 72
not accept in silence the benefactions of God, but return thanks for them.
St. Basil the Great
In ancient times, leprosy was considered incurable, yet Jesus miraculously
healed ten people afflicted by the disease. What sin or difficulty in your
life do you consider to be “incurable,” hopeless, impossible to overcome
or change? How free do you feel to cry out to the Lord in your need? What
hinders you or limits your faith and expectation?
The ten people who came to Jesus to be cured acted on his command to show
themselves to the priests without any proof or assurance of what the results
would be. Think of an occasion when you stepped out in faith, obeying Jesus’
word. What happened? What effect did this have on you?
The Samaritan thanked Jesus by praising him in a loud voice and falling
at his feet (Luke 17:15-16). How could your actions, as well as your words,
give thanks to God?
How does a sense of gratitude to God change us and our outlook on a situation?
What happens when we fail to acknowledge God’s generosity?
Think of someone you know who is ill, lonely, suffering from a mental or
physical limitation, or in some way “marginalized” or cut off from society?
What is one thing you could do this week to make them feel less isolated
and more connected to the body of Christ?
Examine your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any attitudes
for example, discontentment, taking God’s benefits
for granted, holding on to your own agenda, complacency
that blind you to God’s blessings and block you from
experiencing and expressing gratitude. What could you do to overcome such
hindrances and change your outlook? To make giving thanks to God a more
conscious & active part of your life?
Reflect on the following Scripture passages that portray expressions of
gratitude to God for his goodness & gifts:
appointed certain of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD,
to praise invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel.
. . . Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and the priests Benaiah and Jahaziel
were to blow trumpets regularly, before the ark of the covenant of God.
Then on that day David first appointed the singing of praises to the Lord
by Asaph and his kindred.
– 1 Chronicles 16:4, 5b-7
is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name,
O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre. For you, O LORD, have made me glad by
your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless
the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits – who
forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems
your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth
is renewed like the eagle’s.
filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,
giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this
is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
your blessings! Write your own personal “litany of thanks.”
a list of what you are grateful for and keep adding to it. Recount this
list occasionally as you pray, thanking God for each of the particular
benefits he has bestowed on you. You may find it helpful to use Psalm 103
as a model for your litany of thanks.