Homily on the Healing of the Ten Lepers

My homily for the 28th Sunday after Pentecost if provided after the "Read More" line.  Unfortunately, the recorder ran out of memory as I was giving the homily, so this is a rough draft of my notes.  The following readings were given on Sunday.

Colossians 1:12-18

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Luke 17:12-19

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Now the homily:

Glory to Jesus Christ!

One of the glorious revelations -indeed a great gift- that the Church Fathers have left for us is an understanding of the Holy Scripture that sets limits on our imaginations.  This is incredibly important for two reasons: first, because the Scripture is not just a history – it is full of symbolism, of representations, and other literary tools – and secondly, because our human imaginations are capable of such imaginings, that without the guidance of the Fathers, we would surely fall into error imagining strange and diverse meanings of scripture that the apostles never taught.

This is why, before each homily, no matter what it is I FEEL like I want to talk about, I go to the Fathers.  I read what they wrote about the various passages we will be reading and I use that to shape what I am going to talk to you about, because no matter how strongly I FEEL about what I want to talk about, if it is merely a product of my own imagination – if it has never been taught within the Church, then I can’t come here and talk about it.

And sometimes, this practice, apart from keeping me on the straight and narrow way, apart from making sure we are rightly dividing the word of the truth – apart from that, sometimes this practice has another benefit – which is that I find something new to me, and I get excited and I want to share it with you.

That happened this week as I was reading both the Epistle and the Gospel reading.  With the Epistle, I started to ponder how we really pay almost no attention to the Epistle to the Colossians.  We read from it occasionally, but compared to Romans, Ephesians or Hebrews, even compared to James, we rarely talk about it.

In reading the Epistle, I was struck by the beauty of the first line: Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

I wanted to know more about this inheritance of the saints.  We know in the Epistle of Peter, that we have been made partakers of the Divine Nature, but what is this inheritance of the saints in light.  So I went to see what St. John Chrysostom taught about this.  And I found that his translation of this verse was a bit different.  He says “which hath made us meet for the portion of the inheritance of the saints in light

And he says that this is a great thing, for what we are beign told is not only that we are receiving this gift – this inheritance – but that we have first been made ready for it!  That has to be reassuring that so great a gift, which we surely don’t deserve – is not just dropped into the laps of those unable to use it properly, but that God prepare us.  He says that the honor received is two fold – in both the giving, and in the making ready for this gift.  And it is called an inheritance so that we might recognize it as a gift – not something we have earned, worked for or merited, but an absolute free gift from our God.  Now here is the amazing part I found in the writing of St. John – when we talk about being partakers, or “the portion” in the translation of St. John – This means that God has appointed us a place with the saints. But he did not say simply placed us, but that God has given us to enjoy even the very same place, because “portion” is that which each one receives. For it is possible to be in the same city, and yet not enjoy the same; but to have the same portion, and yet not enjoy the same, is impossible. It is possible to be in the same inheritance, and yet not to have the same portion.  God has given us the same inheritance, the same portion as the saints who came before us.  This is the magnitude of the gift – let us give thanks!

Which of course ties directly to our Gospel story for today – the Healing of the Ten Lepers.  Because this is a story about giving thanks – or not giving thanks.  But of course it is much more.  In this story, Christ comes into a certain village, and we are told he is met by 10 men – lepers – who stood afar off.  Well this raises a question right away – how can you “Meet” someone who is standing far away from you?  We are told they lifted up their voices and cried “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” – Well we know in the Psalms that “the Lord is near to those who call upon Him in Truth” – and that is what these lepers did – they called in truth, calling him Master!  So though they were afar off, Jesus was near to them.  And we are told that these 10 lepers represent all of human nature, a nature that was leprous with wickedness, carrying the ugliness of sin as lepers bear the ugly scars of their disease, and living their lives outside the heavenly city, just as lepers were bound to live outside of the city walls – and that the miracle of their healing through Christ was likewise shows the common salvation of mankind – and that the Samaritan who was healed shows that salvation is not just of the Jews, but part of God’s plan for all mankind.  And of course this was the only leper who returned and gave thanks, prefiguring the rejection of Christ by the Jews.

Brothers and sisters, today’s readings are wonderful refresher for us as we toil in our worldly pursuits.  When we find ourselves weighed down by the world, frazzled, stressed, irritable or the like – let us remember that there has been reserved for us the same portion as all the saints!  We are not too late, whether we’ve come late to the banquet or toiled for only the last hour!  This gift – this inheritance – is God’s gift to us, part of his desire that all turn from sin and be saved.  So let us emulate then, the Samaritan leper, not taking our blessings and going our own way, but giving thanks constantly to God our Father who cares for us whenever we call on him in Truth!  Let us plead for his mercies until that day we may hear “Arise, go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole.”

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Glory to Jesus Christ!

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