25th Sunday after Pentecost – Orthodox Homily on the Healing of the Ten Lepers

Ten lepers appeal to Christ God for healing that they know that He alone can give.  While all ten are healed, only one returns to Christ, prostrating himself before Him who gives life to all, thanking Him for the healing he’s received.  You and I have been given healing as well.  We’ve received the greatest of gifts—something greater than physical healing: new life in Jesus Christ, participation even now in His eternal Kingdom through the Sacraments of His Church, forgiveness of our sins, prayer, conversation with God, and the possibility to converse and enjoy blessed communion with Him.  He returns us to our first beauty and calling.  He gives us a greater, eternal purpose to our otherwise temporal lives.  He invites us to receive Him inside ourselves, to feed on Him with our eternal souls.  He heals us from the passions and destructive vices of the world to the extent we’re willing to struggle and cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work in us.  He receives us as we are but always with the objective of transfiguring us into the men and women of God He’s created us to be.  

So, brothers and sisters, you and I are like one of those lepers. We’ve all been offered new birth by water and the spirit, deification, the healing of our souls; we’ve all been set upon the journey of continued healing that is life with God.  But, the question is: are we like the leper who returns to God, prostrates himself before Him and thanks Him, or, are we like the other nine, who receive from God but take His work, His healing, and salvation for granted?  Do we avail ourselves of His life, His healing and deification? Or, are we focused on ourselves to the detriment of our own immortal souls and that of those around us in their spiritual need?  

Whatever one’s sin struggle, there’s healing: no one is beyond God’s healing power.  With God, all things are possible.  But how can we find healing if one is set on going his or her own way, in making our communion with God through Christ, only a tangential part of one’s busy life, in taking Christ and His Church on “our terms,” or filling one’s days with other priorities beside our life in Him?  In all these ways, one can be like those other nine lepers.

So ask yourself: Are you like the leper that returned and gave thanks to God, falling on your face before Him in thanksgiving, or, have you been like the other nine who were healed but took God’s work in their lives for granted? Is there anything you are taking for granted with Christ God and His Church now?  Do you see yourself as unworthy of His bounty, healing, and salvation and, therefore, recipients of grace and mercy?  Do you love your brothers and sisters in this Mission and give yourself sacrificially to the building up of her Body?  These are some of the questions worth asking ourselves as this Gospel confronts us today with its truth.

The reality is that you and I have so much to be thankful for, including and especially the brother or sister sitting next to you, who is important for yoursalvation; he or she is someone to pray for, to learn to come outside yourself to love, to build up, to encourage, to give to, and, to receive from.  We’re all members of the same Body.  We’re reconciled togetherto God, knit together, built up together, saved together—just like those ten lepers were.  The Church is a place of “working out your salvation”—together.  We build up our church not just for ourselves, but for each other, because your brother or sister’s growth affects your growth in faith.  The love which binds us together in Christ means that I also care about my brother and sister’s healing and growth as I do my own.  And this truth of Christ’s Kingdom runs exactly counter to that of our me-first culture with all its loneliness, depression, and callousness towards others.  

So we recognize that the big difference between the one leper who came back to Christ, and the other nine who received healing but forgot about Christ, is thankfulness, gratitude.  Many times, our forgetfulness of God, our taking Him and the Church for granted or on ‘our terms’, comes from a lack of a spirit of thankfulness, of remembering God’s grace and mercy or recognition of His ongoing work in our lives, deifying us, forgiving us, feeding us, healing us, saving us.  

As fasting is a reminder to pray and prayer begets more prayer, so too we see this same dynamic at work with thankfulness.  The more you and I take time to thank God daily, the more wecangive thanks, focus on what we have, and step forward in faith, we make ourselves more open towards God to receive more of His grace and love into our souls and then share it with others. 

Now, as we begin in earnest to look toward Christ’s holy Incarnation and Nativity just a couple weeks from now, it’s time for a change: to renew a right spirit, to thank God for His Church, for this mission, for our brethren with whom we’re being saved and working out our salvation.  

So, ask yourself, which healed leper am I, which one do I want to be?  This holy Advent is the time to act but time is of the essence: beseech God for the strength to repent, to confess, to live more faithful lives to God’s glory.  Embrace His love and healing as it comes to you this Nativity. Take the Fast, praying, worshiping most seriously. Prioritize your life in Christ above all else.  Surrender yourself more fully to Christ and His Holy Church, the work He’s doing in you and through you.   Join me in striving to cultivate a spirit of gratitude toward God.

If we give thanks to God for the small victories, every time we struggle against sin and vice, every time we return to God in repentance (practice metanoia), confess, every day we enter into God’s holy presence to pray, every offering we sacrificially but joyfully give, every time we come to worship together, you and I will have fewer occasions to focus on the negative, all selfishness.  And, in this way, we’ll find ourselves more open to Christ’s gracious calling on our lives to heal us and conform us more into His likeness, to give us greater participation in the life He alone is.  In this way, we prepare ourselves to become inheritors of eternal life with Christ God, to receive Him at His Nativity, and to stand before Him at His awesome Second Coming. 

Fr. Robert Miclean

Holy Archangels Orthodox Mission

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Epistle:            Eph. 4:1-6  Gospel:            Luke 17:12-19