A significant aspect of our Lord’s miracles is the cooperation He requires of the people involved. Rarely does He heal someone without requiring something. He tells the paralytic to take up his mat and walk (cf. Mt 9:1-8), the man with the withered hand to stretch it forth (cf. Mt 12:9-14), and the man born blind to go and wash (cf. Jn 9:1-41). Consider how His commands challenge these men. He requires them to do the very thing that their malady prevents: to stretch out the hand, to walk, etc. But in order to receive the miracle, they must trust the command … and try. Their trust in His command provides the proper disposition to receive His miracle. For divine work to be accomplished human trust is required.
So it is with the ten lepers (Lk 17:11-19). He does not heal them outright. He requires something of them: “Go show yourselves to the priests” (Lk 17:14). Now, this seems an unreasonable command. Lepers were banished from the public and liturgical life of Israel. They were forbidden contact with anyone. More to the point, lepers could approach priests only if they were already healed — so that the priests could confirm the cleansing. But our Lord does not heal them first and then send them off. Rather, He tells them to go before there is evidence of healing — the very thing that human wisdom would advise against.
And yet the lepers set out on this seemingly ridiculous errand. They trust in His command — as absurd as it sounds — and they obey. Trusting that they will be healed, they go to show themselves to the priest. And because of their faith, they receive the miracle: “As they were going they were cleansed” (Lk 11:14). Our Lord Himself points out the relationship between their faith and His miracle. When the one leper returns to give thanks, Jesus says, “your faith has saved you” (Lk 11:19). What worked the miracle was not just our Lord’s healing power, but also the leper’s faith in action.
In this miracle and others our Lord manifests the pattern of salvation. God’s grace does not work without our trust. He will not force reconciliation, healing or holiness upon us. We must participate in the healing He desires to give. Imagine the lepers had refused our Lord’s command. Imagine they said, “No. Heal us now before we go.” Or, going further, imagine if the man born blind resisted and obstinately refused to go and wash. Imagine when our Lord commanded him to get up and walk, the paralytic responded, “Make me.”
Such refusals would be absurd. But no more so than when we, willfully or by neglect, refuse to cooperate with our Lord’s grace. That is, when we ask Him for something but do not act in trust. When we receive the Eucharist and expect it to produce effects in us without our cooperation. When we attend Mass and expect to “get something out of it” although interiorly we are far away from the Sacrifice of the altar. When we pray for help in marriage but do not avail ourselves of the natural and supernatural aids available. If we ask our Lord for things, we should do so in trust — and act on those prayers in trust. Like the lepers, if we believe we have already received it — it will be ours (cf. Mk 11:24).