Readings: 2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19
Where Are the other Nine?
The Eucharist is the greatest act of thanksgiving we can ever render to God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos.1359 and 1360, “The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God had made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity.” It explains further, “The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all “thanksgiving.” At Mass we gather around the Eucharistic table as a family of God’s people, to give thanks to God for the gift of life, for good health, for our families, for friends, for our nation and for everything God has done for us.
It is surprising then, why churches are not full to capacity, with standing rooms only, with grateful people singing God’s praises for the blessings received. The empty pews raise some questions in our minds, could Christ be asking us the same question he asked the Samaritan leper cured of his leprosy: “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Being grateful to God for blessings received should come to everyone naturally. And so should it be, even with favors received from brothers, sisters and friends. Unfortunately, we are living in a world where selfishness, self-centeredness and greed have given way to a false sense of entitlement, making us feel that whatever is given us is ours by right. Hence, it is becoming more and more difficult to appreciate the contributions that people have made towards our successes in life. It is true, according to Criss Jami, that “Man is not, by nature, deserving of all that he wants. When we think that we are automatically entitled to something, that is when we start walking all over others to get it.”
This brings us to the readings of today. Two men, both foreigners and outsiders, are presented to us, to teach us the importance of gratitude. Outsiders, whether Samaritans or lepers, are the special focus of the ministry of Jesus. This is because they were open to seeing God at work in a way that ordinary believers are not. After his healing, Naaman recognized the special status of Israel’s saving Lord and declared, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.” The sincere gratitude of Naaman towards the God of Israel and his prophet Elisha, brought him a gift far more precious than the healing of his leprosy. He received faith in God and was determined to serve Him faithfully. “If you will not accept (the gift he brought), please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord.” (Gospel reading). “Obedience to the prophet healed him and his faith in God brought him healing of his sins as well. Humility obtained for him the cure of his skin disease. Gratitude to God obtained for him a far greater grace: faith in the true God. Jesus was pleased to see one of those lepers, the Samaritan, coming back to him, praising God for the favor 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.” (Philip John, SSP; Premdas, SSP. New Horizon Homilies)
We must be willing to teach our children to be appreciative and to show gratitude for the blessings and favors received. “Someone once asked a Southerner… ‘Where does the South actually begin?’ The Southerner said, proudly, ‘When you notice the children say, “Yes, sir,” and “No, ma’am,”’ “But good manners are not a matter of geography. There are many polite children in Caribou, Maine; Wichita, Kansas; and Tacoma, Washington; as there are in Natchez, Mississippi. Children don’t learn politeness from a postmark. They learn it from a parent. “You’ll know you’ve done a good job of teaching when your child says, ‘Thank you for teaching me to say, “Thank you.”’” (Mark Link, SJ, Sunday Homilies Year C).
Today’s readings remind us to say ‘Thank you’ to God for his love and mercy towards us. We must also teach our children not to take anything and anybody for granted. Everything we have is a gift, freely given by God. God also uses people to help us in our endeavors on earth. Many times, some of us have been ungrateful to our parents. To people like this, King Lear said, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.” We are also often ungrateful to our fellow-men. We can never pay off the debt of gratitude we owe to many men and women who have assisted us on the way to becoming the men and women we are today. How easily we forget that a friend, a teacher, a doctor, a surgeon or a colleague has done something for us which is impossible to repay. But the tragedy is that we often do not even try to repay it. “Blow, blow, thou winter wind, thou are not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.” (William Shakespeare, from ‘As you like it’).
The questions to ponder this week are: who am I? Am I always grateful to God for favors received? Or will Christ say of me, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?” Have I taught my children to say ‘Thank you’ for blessings received? Or have they got the false sense of entitlement from my behavior and my inability to be thankful? Maybe we could set aside some minutes this week during dinner (if we still eat dinner together) to have each family member give thanks to God for some special things that happened that day. This should not only be done during Thanksgiving Day once a year. We have reasons to be grateful daily. Count your blessings one by one, and you will be surprised what God has done for you. “Thanksgiving – the giving of thanks – to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our hearts and chill our relationship with God and with others.” (Fr. John Pichappilly: ‘Kindle Your Spirit’; Homiletic Reflections for Sundays (ABC)). Let us pray with the poet George Herbert: “O God, you have given us so much. Give us one thing more – a grateful heart.” Amen.