The Gospel of Luke: a commentary & meditation 
   "He fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks"

Scripture:  Luke 17:11-19

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Sama'ria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." 14 When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then said Jesus, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"  19 And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."

Meditation: What can adversity teach us about the healing power of love and mercy?  Proverbs states: A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Prov. 17:17).  When adversity strikes you find out who truly is your brother, sister, and friend.  The gospel records an unusual encounter between people who had been divided for centuries.   The Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with one another.  And they were openly hostile whenever their paths crossed.  In this gospel narrative we see one rare exception -- a Samaritan leper in company with nine Jewish lepers.  Sometimes adversity forces us to drop our barriers or to forget our prejudices. When this band of lepers saw Jesus they made a bold request.  They didn't ask for healing, but instead asked for mercy.

The word mercy literally means "sorrowful at heart".  But mercy is something more than compassion, or heartfelt sorrow at another's misfortune. Compassion empathizes with the sufferer.  But mercy goes further; it removes suffering.  A merciful person shares in another's misfortune and suffering as if it were his own.  And he will do everything in his power to dispel that misery.  Mercy is also connected with justice.  Thomas Aquinas said that mercy "does not destroy justice, but is a certain kind of fulfillment of justice. ..Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; (and) justice without mercy is cruelty."    Pardon without repentance negates justice.  So what is the significance of these ten lepers asking for mercy?  They know they are in need of healing, not just physical, but spiritual healing as well.  They approach Jesus with contrition and faith because they believe that he can release the burden of guilt and suffering and make restoration of body and soul possible.  Their request for mercy is both a plea for pardon and release from suffering.  Jesus gives mercy to all who ask with faith and contrition.

Why did only one leper out of ten  -- a Samaritan -- return to show gratitude? Gratefulness is related to grace which means the release of loveliness.  Gratitude is the homage of the heart which responds with graciousness in expressing an act of thanksgiving.  The Samaritan approached Jesus reverently and gave praise to God. If we do not recognize and appreciate the mercy shown us we will be ungrateful. Ingratitude is forgetfulness or a poor return for kindness received.  Ingratitude easily leads to lack of charity and intolerance towards others.  It easily leads to lack of charity and intolerance towards others, as well as to other sins, such as discontent, dissatisfaction, complaining, grumbling, pride and presumption. How often have we been ungrateful to our parents, pastors, teachers, and neighbors? Do you express gratitude to God for his mercy  and do you show mercy to your neighbor?

"Lord, may I never fail to recognize your love and mercy.  Fill my heart with gratitude and thanksgiving and free me from pride, discontentment, and ingratitude.   Help me to count my blessings with gratefulness and to give thanks in all circumstances."

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 (c) 1999, 2000 Don Schwager