The central theme of today’s readings is gratitude – in particular, the expression of gratitude God expects from us. Today’s Gospel story of ‘the forgetful lepers’ presents a God Who desires gratitude from us for the many blessings we receive from Him, and Who feels pain at our ingratitude. L-19
Naman in Old Testament denied to go and show himself to the prophet due to his built–in system of fake prestige, and self-glory; but finally he yielded to his servants’ request. He was then cured. We also see in the Gospel the same attitude and behavior in those nine out of ten lepers. When they were cured, the nine did not have the courtesy or heart t go back and say thanks to the one who cured them. They were very self-centered and self-preoccupied. Their only concern was their cure and their recognition in the society.
The Word of God today, not only tells us to hold on to our Christian faith to get from God our healing and other blessings but also, calls us through Jesus for a holistic and complete faith living. Namely, Jesus wants us not to use our religion just for material blessings. He expects us to go beyond those blessings and seek for persistent faith in staying with Him, thanking Him, giving first priority to Him, and giving witness to His healing power. This type of healing He calls Salvation. Naaman in Old Testament is a role model to us in this regard. After his cure, he said to the prophet: “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” He does not stop there. He promised saying: “I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other God except to the Lord.” We see the same behavior of that one leper who returned to the Lord and whom the Lord praised. Gospel says: “He threw himself on his face, at the feet f Jesus and spoke his praises.” The Lord took the occasion to say: “Were not all ten made whole? Where are the other nine? Was there no one to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?” He too said to the healed person: “Stand up and go your way; your faith has been your salvation.”
Jesus was pleased to see one of those lepers, the Samaritan, coming back to Him, praising God for the favour received. It pained Him that the other nine had not come back to do the same. He certainly expected them back, not because He wanted to receive their gratitude as to enable Him to complete His work of love, of which their healing was only the first step: to bring them to faith.
We must not fail to notice that Jesus did not withdraw His favour from the other nine. They must have happily returned to their village after the priest issued a certificate confirming their cure. But little did they think of the greater blessings they missed on account of their ingratitude.
Eucharist means ‘thanksgiving’. When we come to take part in the Eucharist, we do what Naaman and the Samaritan leper did: we give praise and thanks to God. We do not want our thanks bottled up inside us, a prisoner cannot go free. God’s words cannot be chained up. But our response to it can, if we are not careful. Let our thanks find joyful expression in this Eucharist.
We need to learn to be thankful to God and to others. Often, we are ungrateful to God. Although we receive so much from Him, we often take it for granted, without appreciating His gifts. We allow the negatives of our lives to hide from ourselves the blessings we have received — minor negatives like some health problems, financial worries, conflict with a neighbor or co-worker or spouse. Besides, we are often thankful only when we compare ourselves with less fortunate people. In times of need, we pray with desperate intensity; but as time passes, we forget God. Many of us fail to offer a grace before meals or allot a few minutes of the day for family prayer. God gave us his only Son, but we seldom give Him a word of thanks. Often, we are ungrateful to our parents and consider them a nuisance, although in the past we were dependent on them for literally everything. Similarly, we owe a great debt of gratitude to our friends, teachers, doctors, pastors–but we often fail to thank them. Hence, in the future, let us be filled with daily thanksgiving to God and to others for the countless gifts we have received. 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.
We need to celebrate the Holy Eucharist as the supreme act of thanksgiving: The Greek word “Eucharist” means profoundly religious and thoroughly spiritual “thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving is the attitude we should adopt in worship. When we celebrate Holy Mass together, we are thanking God for the great gift of His Son whose sacrifice formed us into the People of God. We thank God for the gift of the Spirit, through Whom we bring the presence of the Lord to others. Saying thanks to God together with the parish community, sharing our time, talents and material blessings in the parish and sharing the Heavenly Bread of Thanksgiving, the Holy Eucharist, are the simple forms of thanksgiving we can offer every Sunday in response to God’s blessings.
Let us realize the truth that we all need healing from our spiritual leprosy. Although we may not suffer from physical leprosy, the “spiritual leprosy” of sin makes us unclean. Jesus is our Savior who wants to heal us from this leprosy of sin. Since Jesus is not afraid to touch our deepest impurities, let us not hide them. Just as the lepers cried out to Jesus for healing, let us also ask Him to heal us from the spiritual leprosy of sins including impurity, injustice, hatred and prejudice.
Therefore, our whole purpose of praying to God for blessings should be, as Paul says, so that we may obtain the salvation to be found in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. Let us pray for His blessings, for His healing. We need them. We too deserve them. But when we get them – whether health, or wealth, power or prestige let us ask from Him, “No more blessings Lord, we want you, yourself, not to accomplish things for you in this world but to be with you forever.”
God Bless you. Happy Thanksgiving Sunday
Fr. Michael Dias