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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

Show Thyself to the Priest

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

Luke 17:11-19

At that time, Jesus was going to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. And as He was entering a certain village, there He met ten lepers, who stood afar off and lifted up their voice, crying, Jesus, Master, have pity on us. And when He saw them He said, Go, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass as they were on their way, that they were made clean. But one of them, seeing that he was made clean, returned, with a loud voice glorifying God, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks; and he was a Samaritan. But Jesus answered and said, Were not the ten made clean? But where are the nine? Has no one been found to return and give glory to God, except this foreigner? And He said to him, Arise, go your way, for your faith has saved you.

In our modern day, we give no thought to leprosy. Yet, the World Health Organization recently estimated that between two and three million people are afflicted with leprosy, which today is knows as Hansen’s Disease. But in the ancient world leprosy was an even more serious and widespread problem as no treatment was effective. This is why Christ’s healing of the ten lepers is so great.

If we consider the Mosaic Law, we see three kinds of leprosy: (1) the leprosy of the flesh; (2) the leprosy of garments, and; (3) the leprosy of houses. [1] In the Mosaic Law, those afflicted with the leprosy of the flesh had to be avoided because it was believed that they could easily infect others. But with modern medicine, we are told that it is relatively difficult to transmit leprosy, though children are the most susceptible.

Today it is considered inhumane to quarantine lepers into colonies. But as late as the 19th century there were leper colonies, for example, in Hawaii. There is a great story from the 19th century of a missionary priest who volunteered to go to the Hawaiian Islands and risk being contaminated by leprosy so that the poor lepers, men, women and children, could have access to the sacraments, so that they too could go to Mass and confess their sins. Father Damien would never again leave the Island of Molokai but would die among his lepers. Truly he became for them an alter Christus, another Christ, sacrificing his life for love of them.

While the leprosy of the flesh may not come on our radar screen much in the 21st century, the other two types of leprosy that the Jews identified are still endemic today in our society. These other 2 types of leprosy are the leprosy of garments and the leprosy of houses.

The leprosy of garments consists in immodesty of dress and scandalous fashions, whereby not only individuals, but also whole societies lost innocence. If we are familiar with the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, we will recall the warning that certain fashions would be introduced that would compromise modesty and purity and would be most offensive to our Lord. Today, over a century after the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, we cannot help but acknowledge how insidious this problem has become. Today we need to wake up and realize that this leprosy of garments, of which the Jews warned, is present to us today.

The third type of leprosy is the leprosy of houses. This describes the atmosphere found wherever immorality is worshipped. In such places there is no attempt to restrain the mind, body or soul from lust. This leprosy of houses is an attitude too. It is the skewed perspective that has no respect for the innocence of children, the true beauty of womanhood or masculinity.

Rather, in such places of lewdness, people indulge in every sort of impurity. The Mosaic Law required that such houses be avoided, since they are infected with pestilence, namely the leprosy of sin. If modesty, Christian purity and self-control are not learned in the home how can we expect to have a society that respects family values? But how many homes, even Catholic homes, are infected with this spirit of impurity? If the TV, magazines and Internet are not carefully monitored in the home, then the family, mom, dad and the kids, will find their home polluted by the atmosphere of immorality.

In the Gospel we read that the lepers stood afar off because it was commanded in the Law of Moses, [2] so that they would infect no one. From this passage, we learn that we must carefully avoid any person, place or thing that leads us into the leprosy of impurity, immodesty or the like. If we choose lewd, vain and unchaste persons as our friends, we will soon take on their sinful habits.

In the Gospel, after the Lord healed the lepers, he sent them to see the priests in the Temple. By doing this Christ showed the honor due to the sacerdotal dignity and to the law of God, for it was commanded in the Book of Leviticus, [3] that the lepers should show themselves to the priests, in order to be declared by them clean or unclean.

Their purification, therefore, was the reward of their obedience and faith. Further, Christ sent these lepers to the priests to show figuratively, as it were, that he, who wishes to be freed from the leprosy of sin, must contritely approach the priest, sincerely confess his sins, and be cleansed by him by means of absolution. Yet after healing these ten lepers only one came back to offer thanks. St. John Chrysostom says:
"The best means of preserving [God’s] benefits, is the remembrance of them and gratitude for them, and nothing is more acceptable to God than a grateful soul; for, while He daily overloads us with innumerable benefits, He asks nothing for them, but that we thank Him."

Therefore, my dear Christian people, do not forget to thank God as often as you experience the blessing of God in your house, in your children, and in your life. As St. Augustine teaches:
"We cannot think, say, or write anything better or more pleasing to God, than: Deo Gratias - Thanks be to God."

[1] Leviticus 13.
[2] Leviticus 13:46.
[3] Leviticus 14.


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