The story is well-known. Jesus cures ten lepers, sending them to the priests who would then authorize the cured lepers to return healed to their families. The tale could have ended here. However the evangelist is interested in pointing out the reaction of one of them.
Once cured, the lepers disappear from the scene. We know nothing of them. It seems as if nothing has changed in their lives. However one of them «finds himself cured» and understands that something great has been given him: God is the source of that healing. All worked up, he returns «praising God at the top of his voice» and «thanking Jesus».
Generally the commentaries interpret his reaction under the category of thanksgiving: the other nine are ungrateful; only the one who returned knows how to be thankful. Certainly this seems to be what the story is about. However Jesus doesn’t speak of gratitude. He says that the Samaritan has returned «to give praise to God». And giving praise to God is much more than saying thanks.
Within each person’s small story of a life tried by sickness, pain and afflictions, we find that healing is a privileged experience for giving glory to God as Savior of our being. Thus expresses a famous formula of St. Irenaeus of Lyon: «What gives God glory is a human being full of life». That healed body of the leper is a body that sings God’s glory.
We believe ourselves to know all about how our organism functions, but the healing of a serious illness never fails to surprise us. It’s always a «mystery» to experience within ourselves the recovery of life, the reaffirmation of our energy, the growing of our trust and our freedom.
Few experiences could be so radical and basic as that of healing for experiencing victory in the face of evil and triumph of life over the threat of death. That’s why, when we get healed, we are offered the possibility of welcoming in a whole new way the God who comes to us as the foundation of our being and the font of new life.
Modern medicine today allows many people to live the process of healing much more frequently than in times past. We need to thank those who cure us, but our healing can be, in addition, the occasion and stimulus to begin a new relationship with God. We can pass from indifference to faith, from rejection to welcoming, from doubt to trust, from fear to love.
This welcomed healing from God can cure us of fears, emptiness, and wounds that damage us. It can root us in life in a much healthier and freeing way. It can make us whole.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf