OT XXVIII [C]: II Kgs 5:14-17; II Tm 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19
Winston Churchill loved to tell the story of the little boy who fell off a pier into deep ocean water. An older sailor, heedless of the great danger to himself, dove into the stormy water, struggled with the boy, and finally, exhausted, brought him to safety. Two days later the boy’s mother came with him to the same pier, seeking the sailor who rescued her son. Finding him, she asked, “You dove into the ocean to bring my boy out?” “I did,” he replied. The mother angrily demanded, “Then where’s his hat?” In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the story of nine ungrateful lepers.
Normally the Jews and the Samaritans did not mix together, yet this group of lepers consisted of both Jews and a Samaritan. Their misery brought them together. Often it is misery that helps us shed their pride and come down to the level of others. Out of those ten, the one who was a foreigner, was the only one who returned and thanked Jesus. The Old Testament prescribed that when a Jewish leper was healed, he had to go to the local priest to confirm that he was now clean and permitted to mix among the general public. For the Samaritan, he had to go to his own priest near Mount Gerizim. This demand of Jesus required a greater act of obedience because of the long travelling involved. While the demand was greater upon the Samaritan, he was the only one to show gratitude for the gift of healing that he received.
Gratefulness is such an important virtue, that God put it at the very center of Christian worship: the celebration of the Eucharist. Now, in creating and redeeming us, God has done us a favor much bigger than anything we could ever do for him. As the responsorial psalm said: The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
Fr. Roger Landry beautifully explains the connection between the Holy Mass and Jesus’ thanksgiving. Every Mass we’re called to grow in this spirit of thanksgiving, because the Eucharist is Jesus’ own prayer of Thanksgiving to the Father. The Greek word from which we derive the word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” During the Mass, the priest says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” Everyone responds, “It is right and just.” And then the priest replies with a saying of great theological depth: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God.” Before Jesus said the words of consecration on the night he would be betrayed, on the vigil of his crucifixion, he took bread and, as we will hear anew today, “gave thanks.” He gave thanks because he was constantly thanking the Father. He gave thanks because he knew that the Father would bring the greatest good out of the greatest evil of all time which would happen to him after the Mass was done. He gave thanks because it would be through his passion, death and resurrection, that Jesus would institute the means by which we would be able to enter into his own relationship with the Father. The Mass is the school in which we participate in Jesus’ own thanksgiving, the thanksgiving the Church makes continuously from the rising of the sun to its setting.
St. Paul tells us to give thanks to God in all circumstances. How do we give thanks in all circumstances? Here are two practical tips.
At the end of each day, dedicate a few minutes to reviewing the gifts God has given us, and thanking him for them. This keeps our hearts alive with gratitude.
And secondly, it’s vital to form the habit of thanking God throughout the day. When something good happens, say “Thank you Jesus for your friendship and your love.” When something unpleasant happens, still say “Thank you Jesus, for your friendship and your love.”
Daniel Defoe gave us some good advice through his fictitious character Robinson Crusoe. The first thing that Crusoe did when he found himself on a deserted island was to make out a list. On one side of the list he wrote down all his problems. On the other side of the list he wrote down all of his blessings. On one side he wrote: I do not have any clothes. On the other side he wrote: But it’s warm and I don’t really need any. On one side he wrote: All of the provisions were lost. On the other side he wrote: But there’s plenty of fresh fruit and water on the island. And on down the list he went. In this fashion he discovered that for every negative aspect about his situation, there was a positive aspect, something to be thankful for. It is easy to find ourselves on an island of despair. Perhaps it is time that we sit down and take an inventory of our blessings.”
Besides thanking God say sincere thanks to someone who really helped you in your life, your spouse or your parents; or it could be a note to a coworker or a friend who’s been there for you. Gratitude makes us more like God, and opens our hearts to a deeper relationship with him. It’s something we won’t regret.
In gratefulness to the God of Israel, Naaman carried a load of soil with him from Israel so that he could stand in that soil and worship the God of Israel everyday to thank Him for healing him of his leprosy. Instead of carrying the soil from Calvary we come and stand at the foot of the cross in spirit and join that sacrifice of Jesus every Sunday. Let’s offer everything him of ours for the wonderful gift of salvation he gave us.
Today, and every Sunday, let's be like the grateful Samaritan: let's do it with all our hearts.