Lepers were identified as unclean and became outcasts. The pain of social isolation was far worse than the skin malady. You can read Leviticus 13-14 to understand the background. ( for more information see--- http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9774-leprosy )
Lepers had to shout "unclean!" and stand at a distance from others. Human touch and intimacy was severely limited, if possible at all. Some contemporary folks are tempted to say this is stupid, not realizing that if we no longer cast out lepers, we still have lots of marginalized people in society. Lepers are still among us, just in a different form...
"Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" Their cry is called 'the Jesus Prayer' in the Orthodox tradition. It is at the heart of Christian spirituality since the early church. It is a perfect prayer. It identifies Jesus as Master and recognizes His authority. It is a declaration of faith in His Person and His name, which means YHWH saves/YHWH heals.The cry for mercy also has a deeper meaning. The Greek word, eleos means mercy, pity or kindness, but in the Septuagint (Greek Jewish Bible) it translates the Hebrew word chesed/hesed--which is the fundamental descriptor of God's covenant attitude toward His people. No single word can summarize hesed which means God is ever "faithful, loving, gracious, kind, righteous, just and merciful". To ask Jesus for "eleos-mercy" is both to remember the covenant promises of God and to declare His never ending fidelity.
Last week I said that we do not love God enough. It is true. But the Good News is He loves us enough. He loves us and He is faithful and we can cry out to Him for mercy in all its manifestations--forgiveness, healing, help, re-creation, renewal, etc. Most importantly, His hesed-mercy is the offer of relationship. So I invite you to spend five minutes each day quietly praying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." Pray it in love. Pray it in confidence. Pray it every day.
There is also a model for ministry here. We are the Body of Christ. Our face is an icon of Jesus. Healing salvation addresses the many dimensions of human being, but first and foremost focus on encounter with the Holy Three God. That is why response matters.
The response in the story was ten percent (a tithe!), only one of the ten who were healed returned to praise God. The word "return" has a deeper meaning. In Hebrew, to "turn around" is the metaphor for repentance. Repentance is a return to God (like the prodigal son). Healing of the body or soul is a sign of God's faithful mercy love and an invitation to repent. Healing mercy is just the beginning, and walking away from God is simply embracing healing in the short term. Eventually we all die so all healing is temporary. The real goal of healing is salvation, an eternal relationship with the Holy Three God and all humanity. The proper response to healing of any kind, is praise and thanks. It is relational and expresses our love. "Glory to God in the highest!" is another ancient prayer worthy of daily recitation.
The leper is an outcast. We are all lepers to someone.
Human alienation needs redemption and Jesus offers it.
So cry to Jesus for mercy and open your heart to receive redemption.
Hear the cries of others and bring Jesus' healing and redemption to others.
But remember that redeemed humans need to thank and glorify God. That is why we do eucharist--our worship is literally thanksgiving and praise.
Jesus has shown us mercy loving kindness
Jesus has used us to bring mercy loving kindness to others
Let us love the Holy Three and love one another.
Let us praise and thank God our Father for His loving mercy kindness!
Let us live eucharist!