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having passed through this world in haste, he returned to his Father : " He was going," as if he hastened from mortality to immortality ; from pain to glory; from contempt, to his kingdom. Now," while he was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria." Our Lord, mindful of man's salvation, for the restoring of which he had come down from heaven; for, his passion now at hand, “was going to the city of Jerusalem,” fearing not the Jewish nation, how savage soever, nor how anxiously soever they thirsted for the shedding of his blood. In Jerusalem was the temple of the Lord ; there was the Jewish priesthood, there was the worship of holy religion ; there also, thrice every year every male of the Jews appeared, according to the legal commandment; and so our Lord oftentimes went to that city, desiring to announce there to many the words of salvation, and to show his miracles, so that even while he was on the way, he heralded his path thither with miracles.
“And he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And a3 he entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers," for thus they were, by a decree of the law, separated from the common habitation of houses and cities. Samaria was an independent state or country, in which of old the ten tribes had flourished, before they fell from the worship of God, and were led into captivity by the Assyrians. These, then, were carried away into exile from their own country, and a mixed people of the Assyrians dwelt there in their stead. But the greater part of Galilee belonged to the Jewish kingdom, for therein was Nazareth, the native country (if I may be permitted to use the expression of our Lord. Wherefore our Lord going to Jerusalem for his passion, the fulfilment of which was hastened every step he took, visited also these provinces as he went along, and enlightened them by the wonders of his miracles. “ And as he entered into a certain town." The holy evangelist would not here particularly mention the name of this town; to signify that the place where he met those lepers, was a place far apart from the dwelling of man; for by the law's decree they were condemned to be separated from the common resort of men. But it is to be noticed, that our Lord did not meet those lepers in a village, town, or city, but rather, on his journey, because the law commanded, by the ministry of the priesthood, that such should be separated from all the people, and so being separated from the common haunts of men, were not met by our Lord in a village or town, but rather, on his journey. While he was “entering into the town," they met him, because their cure was at hand, whence, on seeing our Lord, they called
out: even to him who whilst he was giving bodily health, could also give the precepts of eternal life. But as our Lord taught that the divine law must ever be obeyed, a law given by him, therefore he sent them to the priests, saying: “Go, show yourselves to the priests;" for the law commanded, that if any one should incur the stain of leprosy, he should be brought to the priest ; that by his decision he might be judged to be clean or unclean. (Levit. xiii.) Wherefore, by a wise dispensation, our Lord sent the lepers to the priests, for many reasons. First, to avoid all pretence of calumny,--that he had been more lax than they. Secondly, that seeing these lepers cured, whom neither they nor the law could cure, they might either believe and be saved, or if they believed not, might be inexcusable in his advent. Thirdly, that by this he might more highly commend the priesthood of the holy Church; for if that priesthood, which served in a type and figure, was so venerable in its time that it should be honoured by our Lord himself, how much more must that which ministereth not in figure, but in truth, be reverenced and worshipped with all honour.
Again; “ Whom when he saw, he said : Go show yourselves to the priests." Amongst all whom our Lord is narrated to have cured of many infirmities, and on many occasions, on none did he impose any condition, save only on these lepers, to show themselves to the priests. Now this may be interpreted literally, which plainly shows, that he might have done this to prevent those who calumniated him from having any weapon against him, in refusing due honour and reverence to the priesthood, especially as this cure of the lepers was to be especially judged by the priests. But if the spiritual interpretation be sought, it is evident that the priesthood of the Jews was the type of the royal and Christian priesthood, which now, by God's grace, remaineth in the Church; by which all belonging to it are, by the members of the true priesthood, made clean, and consecrated.
“ And it came to pass, that as they went, they were made clean." A speedy health aptly followed a ready obedience; and it happened by a mighty providence, that they were cured before they came to the priests, lest had it taken place in their presence, they might have thought that they were cured by their ministry, and not by the virtue of His sending. But what we briefly notice in the literal sense, order of the matter shows to be full of mysteries. For this privilege especially pertains to the miracles of our Lord,—that while historically true, yet when spiritually examined they unfold the sweetness of hidden mysteries within. Let us then examine these mysteries, and press out
the honey. These lepers may not inaptly designate heretics. Leprosy is of this nature; that it spots the skin which is infected by it; so also, heretics lie while they speak the truth, and mix truth with falsehood; and a dogma which is, as it were, of one colour, they tinge with a variety of superinduced falsehood; for if they always followed truth, they would not be heretics; or if they always spoke what was false, no one but would say of them, that they were above measure mad. They mingle, therefore, true with false, as said above; that whilst the superimposed truth is received, the hidden murrain of falsehood may creep within : after the manner of those poisoners who anoint the rims of the vessel with honey,—that while the sweetness of the honey is only thought of, the poison of the cup may be drained more greedily.
Again ; but as in the leprosy, the mixture of divers colours makes the man filthy, so, not inaptly, by the spiritual interpretation, lepers figure heretics, who not having the unity of the faith, are infected with divers errors.
For you must know, that there is no doctrine so false, but that it is mixed with some truth ; either lest if too openly false, it should not be received ; or, if wholly true, it would not be heretical. But as the wounds of a body appearing on the skin, mark the flesh with divers scars, so, in the doctrine of every heretic, the false is mingled with the true ; that under the pretext of truth, the noxious falsehood may prevail ; as the poisoner anvints the lip of the cup with honey, that by the taste of sweetness the victim may come to the cup of death. Now, as a pestilence of that kind is driven out only by the princes of the Church: and as the authors of it are cast out from the fellowship of all Christendom, they are necessarily obliged to call on the Lord JESUS with a loud voice, that they may be saved. Nor is it without signification, that the holy evangelists note that there were ten lepers: " There met him ten men that were lepers”—commendable in respect of numbers, but all unclean. So are the heretics who receive the ten commandments, and affirm that they fulfil them; asserting that they are professors of the Christian faith. The number is well, but the insincerity of their evil doctrine is offensive: as the apostle St. Paul says, “ Having an appearance, indeed, of godliness, they deny the power thereof.” (2 Tim. iii. 5.) Such as these should be cast from the habitation of the city of God; that is, from the communion of the universal Church; at least, that they be condemned, and separated from the fellowship of all, till such time as they are tired of their long wandering, and are forced to call upon Christ with a loud voice, and to confess that He is indeed the teacher of truth. For this is what the
evangelist says: “ They stood afar off, and lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us.” So they stood afar off, and drew not near to our Lord, seeing that they were separated, as we have already said, from the fellowship of all. And they cried with a loud voice, lest the noise of the surrounding crowd should by chance drown their cries. Well do they call Him master-of their cure—seeing they acknowledge that they have wandered from his faith and doctrine, and it is well that they should repair in Him, what they had impaired by leaving Him; and that they should seek from Him the blessing of their desired salvation.
“ Whom when he saw, he said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean.” The leprosy may have four different significations. The infidelity of the heathens; the perfidy of the Jews: the error of heretics, or the stain of grievous sins. From this manifold leprosy, whosoever would be cleansed, must needs go to the Church,-must seek the priests, and by their ministry divest himself of the stains of his sins, without which, it is evident that he cannot be cured of his sickness. For, as the lepers were sent to the priests, it is evident that converted heretics ought to show themselves to the priests and ministers of the Church, and to lay open for examination, the error of their wicked doctrine, like the varied colour of the skin ; and so, having been instructed by them in the rules of the Catholic faith, may be restored to their former cleanness and beauty. For though our Lord, who is the great high priest, and the true teacher, might by his interior teaching inspire what it was fitting to hold, yet he would not vouchsafe so great a dispensation, that by this, those who were to be taught, should be made solid by a profound humility, and so, being humbled, be made more worthy for receiving the sacraments of faith. For even St. Paul, who had been instructed by a divine revelation from heaven, who says that he had received his gospel “not of man, nor by man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. i. 1), was yet sent to Ananias, (Acts. ix), that from him be might receive the truth of the faith, and all else that the ecclesiastical order requires to be fulfilled. What then does that mean, that they were made clean before they came to the priests? Haply it signifies that there are many of fervent faith, who, whilst they are seeking for holy teachers, for the recovering the health of their souls, are gifted with so much preventing grace of God, that even before the laver of baptism they have already laid aside the leprosy; and by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, have deserved to be cleansed from
original sin. Such was fulfilled in Cornelius and those of his household, of whom we read,—“While Peter was yet speaking, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word.” Then Peter said, “ Can
any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we?" (Acts x. 44-47.) For the manifold mercy of God conferred this power on the prelates and priests of his Church, that they should give a sanction to the confessors of penance, and should admit them, when cleansed by the same salutary satisfaction, to the gate of reconciliation ; and so, by the ordained commands of the divine will, God's pardon cannot be obtained but by the supplications of the priests.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God." How high the merit, and how great the faith of this one was, may be gathered from this,--that while all the rest continued ungrateful, he alone returned to give thanks to Him that cleansed him; holding lightly of the priesthood to whom he had been sent, but anxious to present himself before the face of CHRIST, the true priest, who is a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchesidech; who is the pontiff of pontiffs, and priest of priests. That there was but one, and all the rest were ungrateful, who returned alone, to give thanks to Christ, signifies he who in humility returns to the one Church, devoted to God, who daily poureth forth thanks to the true God, and, repressing his own presumptuous thoughts, looks humbly on his own infirmity; who attributes nothing good to himself, but confesses that all proceedeth from the divine clemency. For it is well said, “that he went back with a loud voice," for he felt in his soul that God's mercy to him was great. Well did he return, with a loud voice glorifying God, whose omnipotence he had experienced in his sudden restoration ; and by so doing, proves that he is a true member of the Church, who amidst the blasphemies of heretics and Jews, against Christ, ceases not daily to give praise and thanksgiving to him; wherefore, it is well added, “ that he fell upon his face before his feet, giving thanks.” Such a falling is the property of the elect. But the reprobate are ever falling backwards, as it is written of the persecutors, when our Lord said to them, “I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.” (St. John xviii. 6.) And of the followers of antichrist it is said, under the figure of what Jacob said to Dan :-“ Let Dan be a snake in the way, a serpent in the path, that biteth the horse's heels, that his rider may fall backward.” (Gen. xlix. 17.) For he that falleth backward, falleth there where he knoweth