Luke 17:11-19
Show Gratitude to the Lord by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.  As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.  They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,  "Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!"  And when he saw them, he said,  "Go show yourselves to the priests."  As they were going they were cleansed.  And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.  Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not?  Where are the other nine?  Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"  Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."

I once stopped into a Burger King with my mother.  I was rather taken aback by the way the woman in front of me spoke to the cashier.  When asked how she could be helped, the woman smartly told the cashier to just wait a minute, then boldly said what she wanted.  There was no "please," no "thank you."  Just, "Give me what I want!"  I wish I could say it was the last time I heard someone speak and act that way.  Unfortunately, it is not.  I guess I just remember when Mom and Dad tried teaching me the "magic words."

I realize this is only a small thing, but such a demanding attitude seems rather coarse.  Does it really hurt that much to say simple words like "please" and "thank you"?  If we can not do it in small things, what about the larger things?"  This week's Gospel reading presents us with just such a case of blatant ingratitude.

Our Lord encounters 10 lepers and He heals or "cleanses" them, but only one comes back to thank the One who healed him.  In fact, he does more than just give thinks:  "He glorified God with a loud cry" (Lk 17:15).  He realized the greatness of the gift he had been given and the goodness of the One who gave it.

Lepers were truly the outcasts of their society.  By law, they had to live apart from the rest of the community (Num 5:2-3) and had to shout a warning to others when they were nearby (Lev 13:45-46).  To be healed meant not only a bodily restoration to health, but also reconciliation with the community once they had shown themselves to the priest and were no longer declared "unclean."

In light of such a great gift, it should seem mystifying that only one of the 10 - a a Samaritan at that - should come back and say thank you.  Certainly the other nine could not miss noticing what had happened to them.  Why did they not seek Jesus, too?  The Gospel does not tell us why.  Perhaps we do not need to know.  It should be enough that we find something wrong with their lack of gratitude, that they should have the gall to just take the gift and run.  More importantly, we should make sure that same lack of gratitude is never found in ourselves.

We can and should give thanks for our material blessings - family, friends, homes, the food on our table, etc.  We need to be mindful of and thankful for the many kindnesses we receive from others, not simply be presumptuous and demanding.  That is why little things like thank-you notes and phone calls are so important.  We must acknowledge that we have been given precious gifts.

But we need to go a little deeper than even just the material.  We, too, were once exiles and outcasts like those lepers.  Once we were dead in sin.  Now we live in and through Christ.  This is the fruit of our baptism, when we died and rose with Christ.  In baptism, "all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as punishment for sin.  In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the kingdom of God, neither Adam's sin, not personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God"  (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1263).  Baptism makes of us "a new creature, an adopted son of God ... a partaker of the divine nature, member of Christ and co-heir with him, and temple of the Holy Spirit" (No. 1264).  That is what is called the grace of justification and, as the Scriptures clearly attest, it is given through no merit of ours: "And there is a difference between God's gift and the sin of one man (Adam).  After the one sin came the judgment of 'guilty' but after so many sins, comes the undeserved gift of 'not guilty!'" (Rom 5:16).  We might say the same thing about the sacrament of penance.  After 'showing ourselves to the priest' who acts in the person of Christ, after expressing sorrow for our sins, does not God separate our sins from us and declare us clean once more?

It would be the height of ingratitude to ignore or take for granted the great gift we have been given by God through His son Jesus Christ.  But there are some who do.  Think of how many souls neglect Sunday Mass.  Participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice is our way of "glorifying God in a loud voice" for His most wondrous gifts.

As I said, we should be saddened by the lack of gratitude on the part of the nine lepers and follow the example of the one who came back. We ourselves have been given a great grace.  How could we not say thinks?

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