The reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (17:12-19)
Today we heard the gospel story of the ten lepers. Ten men who were very sick with leprosy. As many of you know, leprosy was considered something like a death sentence in ancient times. Lepers were forced to live away from their families, friends and loved ones so as not to make others sick or impure according to the law.
As the ten lepers approached Our Lord Jesus Christ they cried out to Him. We are told that they “lifted up their voices” to Him and said “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” At this request the Lord responded and told them to show themselves to the priests and as they walked away, they were healed. My brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ loves us so much more than we can possibly imagine. This prayer that the lepers cried out is the foundation for all of our prayers as faithful children of God. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” It sounds almost like another prayer that we commonly pray during all of our services, “Lord have mercy!” It also sounds nearly identical to the Jesus prayer that is said by the faithful all over the world, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, the sinner.”
Now what St. Luke the Evangelist is telling us is that Jesus will hear us whenever we call to Him from our whole heart. Do we cry out to Him from our whole heart? That is what it means to be Christians. Christians are those who have a deep relationship with God written on their hearts through a life of prayer. We also couple this life of prayer with a prayerful life. These two work together in harmony. Whatever you face in your life, whatever struggle you go through, you can be certain that the very moment that you call out to the Lord Jesus from the depths of your heart, He is present and hears you. Yet, the beauty of our life is that we should never stop calling out to Him. We should never stop searching for Him even when things are “going well.” St. Paul refers to this when he says that we should “pray without ceasing.” This simple Jesus prayer or some similar prayer is key to growing in your prayer life. He listened to the lepers and the Lord will also come to heal the leprosy of our souls.
Yet as the men went away and were cleansed and healed they continued rejoicing. They celebrated wildly. It was if the death sentence had been commuted. It was if they were resurrected from the grave. I can only imagine how they felt as they saw their skin healing before their very eyes and they ran with joy they hadn’t experienced in quite some time. I can imagine this and I can see myself as one of these lepers. But one of them did something quite different than the rest. Instead of running towards home, he ran back towards the One who had blessed him with a chance to return home. Instead of celebrating the miracle, he returned to honor and thank the miracle worker. He had a different kind of joy in his heart. It was a joy that wouldn’t be true and real without first acknowledging that it was Christ who had made all of this happen for him. And yet there was more. We are now told the icing on the cake…the man who returned to give thanks wasn’t a faithful Jew but a Samaritan. Wow. Our Lord was truly amazed. This foreigner returned to give thanks and glory to God, while all of those Jews who supposedly knew God truly, didn’t so much as turn around.
We are reminded here that the Lord always planned to save the gentiles, the non-Jewish people. And this was another sign that the gentiles would indeed come to true faith and would love and serve Christ.
This reading is also a reminder that each one of us should live a life of thanksgiving. Jesus Christ has blessed us with so much. He’s given us abundance both physical and spiritual. He has forgiven our sins and comforted us. He has give us medicines and healed us. He has loved us beyond all measure or comprehension.
As we contemplate all of the things that we are thankful for I want to share something for which I’m thankful. On Tuesday we will celebrate 7 years since the start of this church. I cannot help but remember that first liturgy on Sunday January 17th. We were squished together in the clubhouse at the old golf course and as we started to pray the divine liturgy we were treated to a rare and beautiful light snowfall. For me, every day since that first day has been just as beautiful and just as glorious as that day. But the real beauty and miracle is to see you all come together as a close knit family in Christ. We started this church with liturgy and for us the liturgy brings us together and it renews us and brings us joy. The liturgy and all of the prayers and services of the church offer us comfort and grace and healing. So we thank the Lord Jesus Christ that He allowed this church to be planted and to thrive and grow and that He allows us to serve the services here for the glory of God and for the salvation of our souls.
I know that many of you were not here when we first started praying together. It doesn’t matter. You are here now. Let us show our gratitude to God and to one another by supporting and loving one another and never ever taking the church and her services for granted. The services, and especially the divine liturgy, give us life as Christians. So let us show our thanks to the Holy Trinity through our faithfulness to this task that we share together, to grow in holiness and to love those around us with the love of Christ. To Him be the glory together with His Father and the Holy Spirit AMEN.