IN THOSE DAYS, as Jesus 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 cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice, and fell down on his face at Jesus' feet and thanked Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten cleansed? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then Jesus said to the man, "Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well."
In the Bible, leprosy does not refer to a specific disease, bur rather to various skin diseases. In the ancient times, when the medicine was not nearly as developed as it is today, anyone with a disease that had a risk of contagion was ostracized. It was the only way to prevent the spread of sickness. These people were not allowed to be present in the society, no matter family members or not. Anyone who came in contact with them was considered either ritually unclean or contaminated. In the case of the former, the person had to go through a ritual of purification, which lasted around seven days, and included being ostracized for that period. Contamination meant exile in the desert with others.
Therefore, Jesus met the ten lepers as He entered a village. Meaning, He was still on the outskirts and lepers caught Him before He entered into the village, where they were not allowed. They had only one request - mercy. Why mercy? Why not ask for healing?
It is through God's mercy that we are not only healed of our physical and spiritual diseases, but also restored to what we are meant to be - individual people, who are part of God's community, who live and struggle together, striving together towards His Kingdom. Sickness is unnatural, so is loneliness.
The Lord directed the ten lepers to show themselves to the priests. The first question we have to consider, were priests doctors? The short answer is no. Then why send sick people to be inspected by them? For the answer we need to turn to the Old Testament. In the Book of Leviticus (chapter 13 and 14:1-32), the Lord gave quite detailed instructions on what to do with people with leprosy. These instructions were given to Moses and his brother Aaron, who was a priest. It was up to the priests to examine people and pronounce them clean, sick, or healed.
I will stop here today, in order to have something to discuss next time this reading comes around. The reason we say, "Lord, have mercy," after every petition in our services is because that's all we need. All our needs, illnesses, pain, loss, joy, thanksgiving are fulfilled through God's mercy.
Yours in the Lord,