Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus heals ten lepers, saying, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” The lepers who begged for a cure were not simply concerned about their medical condition; they were Israelites in exile from the temple—and hence they were a very apt symbol of the general condition of scattered, exiled, wandering Israel. In curing them, Jesus was, symbolically speaking, gathering the tribes and bringing them back to the worship of the true God.
That’s why he tells the lepers, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” In other words, go back to the temple from which you’ve been away for so long. I propose that the lepers here stand not so much for the socially ostracized but for the ones who have wandered away from right worship, the ones who are no longer able or willing to worship the true God.
What is so important about worship? Protestant theologian Paul Tillich said that the key to understanding a person was to uncover his “ultimate concern,” another way of saying, “what he worships.” What do you worship? If it’s not the living God, you’ve wandered into the land of exile. You have become, in fact, unclean.