Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” The central theme of today’s readings is gratitude– in particular, the expression of gratitude God expects from us. Today’s Gospel presents a God who desires gratitude from us for the many blessings we receive from Him, and who feels pain at our ingratitude. Our thanksgiving doesn’t make God any greater than he is. Our praise doesn’t add anything to his Glory. But still he looks for a grateful heart from us.
A nurse who worked for an orthopedic surgeon tells this story. The doctor was moving to a new office across the town. She was helping him to move all his equipment. Among them was a skeleton that the doctor used when he wanted to point out a problem area to a patient. She put the skeleton in the front seat of her car with its bony arm stretched across the back of the driver’s seat. She hadn’t thought how this might look to other drivers on the road. As she waited at a red light, people in the car next to her really stared her down and she explained. “I am taking him to the doctor’s office.” The other driver leaned over and yelled out, “I hate to tell you this lady it is too late.”
It is nowhere recorded in the scripture that Jesus raised a skeleton to life, he did raise three others who died back to life: the daughter of Jairus, the son of a widow, and Lazarus. Today we see Jesus heals ten lepers. In a figurative way he restored the life of these people. In that culture it was fatal to have leprosy. They could no longer be part of the family and society; it was equal to being dead. Bringing them back to life Jesus gave them a second chance. It was something unimaginable. But just one among the ten thought to come back to say thanks. What happened to the nine? Probably they went to show themselves to the priest. But did they come back after that to say thanks? No, they did not. Maybe they went to see their family in excitement. Did they come to say thanks after that? No, they did not. Maybe they were busy putting their life back together again and forgot about Jesus who gave them a second chance. We pray and ask God’s help every day. But how often do we come to thank God and praise him for all he does for us every day? Someone said to me “Every day is a gift from God and every meal is a feast.” How grateful are we? Naaman, the Syrian military commander in the first reading, was an outcast not only because of his leprosy; he was also a non-Israelite. But he returned to thank the Prophet Elisha for the cure of his leprosy and as a sign of his gratitude, transferred his allegiance to the God of Israel. Today’s Gospel story tells us of a single non-Jewish leper, who returned to thank Jesus for healing him, while the nine Jewish lepers went their way. Today’s readings also remind us that faith and healing go hand in hand. It was faith that prompted Naaman to plunge himself into the waters of the Jordan River, and it was faith in Jesus which prompted the lepers to present themselves first to Jesus and then to the priests. We need to learn to be thankful to God and to others. We can express our gratitude to our loving and provident God by offering grace before meals and by allotting a few minutes of the day for family prayer. Let us show our gratitude to our forgiving God by forgiving others, and to a loving God by radiating His love, mercy and compassion to others, including our families and friends. It is by taking good care of our old and sick parents that we express our gratitude to them for the sacrifices they made in raising us.
We need to celebrate the Holy Eucharist as the supreme act of thanksgiving. When we celebrate Holy Mass together, we are thanking God for giving us the great gift of His Son in the Holy Eucharist so that we can share His Divine life and recharge our spiritual batteries. We express our thanks to God as a parish community by sharing our time, talents and material blessings in the various ministries and services of the parish.
God Bless You,