Sermon by Bishop Nektary of Seattle on the Healing of the Ten Lepers
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!
Today the Holy Church relays to us the Gospel teaching of how the Savior healed the ten lepers.
The Lord Jesus Christ was on His way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Upon entering a town, He was met by ten lepers.
One could not but look with sympathy at these unfortunate men, for they suffered a terrible infectious disease which was at the time widespread and caused untold hardship. Victims were covered in putrid sores, their bodies rotting and decaying, and parts of their bodies would actually fall off, their faces turned unrecognizable.
The sick also suffered bitterness, for by Mosaic law, they were obliged to show themselves to the priests, who, confirming their disease, were driven out from society and had no right to enter towns and villages, fated to wander the wilderness; they were even prevented from drinking from the same water sources.
So these ten “living corpses,” rejected by all, dared not approach Christ, but believing in His great healing power, cried out: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” For by the same law of Moses, the priests could declare them free of their ailment and they could return to society.
Evangelist Luke then recounts how they were healed as they walked to the city. Imagine their amazement, having been rejected by their relatives, their mothers, fathers, children and friends. Having lost all hope for healing, they had no choice but to wander the desert. Now by the word of the Lord, they headed to show themselves to the priests and saw their bodies miraculously healing, their pain subsiding, their limbs restored, and they became healthy human beings once again.
Undoubtedly, this miracle and living joy of healing allowed them to sense the omnipotence of Jesus. Restored in body, they were purified and could return to the joys of life.
It would seem that a just sense of gratitude would have compelled them to return to their Benefactor and thank Him with all their hearts, which were now filled with joy over their healing. The Lord would have received this gratitude and given them the new light of His grace.
But as the Gospel tells us, only one of them returned and with a loud voice praised God and fell to His feet, and that man was a Samaritan. How close is he to our hearts today. How good was he in his trembling and inspired elation, having seen himself healed, without hesitation hurrying back to his Savior. And how the Lord doubtless rejoiced over the return of this once lost lamb. But only one of them returned. What of the rest? They left, probably forever.
The Lord was sorrowful over these nine and He said: “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” For if they did not remember Him directly after being cleansed, would they remember Him when they return to the pleasures and cares of this world?
Let us not seek answers to this crude ingratitude of the healed Jews. Let us turn to ourselves, and alone with our conscience, with pure heart compare ourselves to those who were healed. Can we not join the Samaritan who humble fell to the Savior’s feet in gratitude? How bold would that be of us!
We are like the successors of the nine ungrateful Jews, and together with them we do not thank the Lord for His great mercies and His all-gracious providence for us sinners.
The gifts and mercies of the Lord to us unworthy people are countless. The Lord summoned us from non-existence, creating us in His image and likeness. The Lord granted us a Divine gift—free will. He gave us the ability, in continually making ourselves more perfect, to approach our Creator.
But when we abused this gift and willingly submitted to evil, caught and enslaved by the devil, God them sent His Only-Begotten Son for the absolution of our sins with at the dearest Cost—His Own Blood. If only we would repent.
The Lord bestowed upon us countless material, physical, emotional and spiritual goods, leading us by His Providence towards salvation. But how often do we notice, with every single step we take, the Hand of the Savior in our lives?
Even the fact that we live in this country, well-fed and free; that we now stand in church and are present at Divine Liturgy, is a great mercy of God. Shall we not fall to His feet in gratitude? Даже то, что мы с вами находимся в этой стране сыты и свободны; даже то, что мы сейчас находимся здесь в Храме и присутствуем на Божественной Литургии — есть величайшая милость Божия.
In the Epistle reading today of St Paul, he talks about the need to be thankful to God, calling upon us to participate in the legacy of the saints; His Son, Who delivered us from the reign of darkness and leading us to the Kingdom of His Beloved Son, in Whom we have the expiation and forgiveness of our sins. We see very many other passages in Holy Scripture that call upon us to be grateful to the Lord. St Paul wrote: “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” And to the Ephesians: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Addressing the Thessalonians, he said: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
And so in thanking the Lord we should not just do so for joys and pleasures, but even for sorrows, even grave sufferings. For through great sufferings one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
With this attitude we can overcome suffering for the sake of the Lord, lifting up prayers of gratitude, and then sorrow will turn to joy.
There was a certain Hieromonk Nikon, who was arrested by the Bolsheviks in Optina Hermitage and sent to Turkistan. Suffering from tuberculosis, weak and feeble, enduring beatings and an unjust trial, sent to hard labor in a a terribly hot region, this holy martyr wrote to his friends that he was limitlessly grateful to God that He allowed him to endure all this in His Holy Name.
He wrote that he deemed the following words as though addressed to him personally: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Let us fall to His feet, bringing thanks to the Christ Child, offering gratitude, repentance and love and with humility and tears of endearment pray not only for our needs but for our Fatherland which is suffering under the decay of communism.. let us pray together with them: “Jesus our Teacher, have mercy on us,” and may the Lord respond: “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” Amen.