Leprosy is a painful and disabling disease that still affects hundreds of thousands of people around the world today, though it can be cured with modern drugs. In Jesus’ time there was no cure, and anyone believed to have leprosy was driven out of the community for fear of infection. To be a leper was to be cut off from family, friends and normal life.
This is the situation of the ten people who cry out to Jesus in today’s Gospel. They are forced to live on the edge of the village, and they call to Jesus from a distance, not daring to come near: ‘Take pity on us.’ Jesus does have mercy on the ten, and cures them of their leprosy straight away. As we read in John’s Gospel, Jesus has come to bring ‘life to the full’ for all of God’s people, and he restores the lepers to the fullness of life.
All ten can return to their families and their lives. But only one comes back to Jesus to give thanks. Jesus tells this man, ‘Your faith has saved you.’ Ten people have been restored to health, but only one, it seems, has come to faith in Jesus because of his cure. And this man is a Samaritan – a foreigner who would be despised by the Jews, even now that he was no longer a leper. Jesus breaks down all barriers and all divisions. Anyone can come to him for life and healing. Nothing should stop us from crying out to Jesus for mercy, and we can be confident of hearing his words of love: ‘Your faith has saved you.’