As we continue our journey through the Gospel of Luke (17:11-19), we hear the story of the thankful leper. Luke’s accounts of the mission of our Lord focus primarily on the healing ministry of Jesus. At a healing Mass, those who suffer from serious illness are invited to receive the Sacrament of the Sick. Although sacramental anointing is restricted to those who are “in danger of death” (i.e., the very definition of “serious”), each one of us is in need of healing by the Lord.
Some of us need to be healed physically, others psychologically, and still others emotionally. All of us, however, need spiritual healing because each of us is a sinner. Throughout the scriptures, sickness is often linked to sin. In other words, human sickness, as well as sin, derives from the original sin of our first parents. Illness and the temptation toward sin are part of our human condition into which we are born.
Therefore, each day we must fight against sin and sickness. One of the consequences of being ill (whether physically, psychologically, or spiritually) is alienation. Illness and sin separate us from ourselves, others, and even God (although God never leaves us, our illness may cause us to think that we are abandoned). That is why the Church offers two sacraments of healing: penance and anointing. Penance (or confession) relieves our spiritual illness, which sacramental anointing prepares us to meet God as well as restore us back to health if it is in God’s plan for us.
Like the thankful leper in today’s Gospel, we are invited to be filled with gratitude for God’s goodness to us, especially when we have been healed of either sin or sickness. Ultimately, it is God who restores us to wholeness and health. May each of us continue to be mindful of God’s loving mercy as we strive to be witnesses of His Word.