The Gospel reading from last Wednesday (November 14) recounts the story of one of Jesus’ many healing miracles. While journeying through Samaria and Galilee, Jesus encounters 10 lepers who ask him to heal them. He responds by telling them to visit the priests. While they are traveling, they are cleansed. The passage continues:
“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.”
Like many passages in Scripture, there are numerous layers to the meaning of this text. At the most basic level, we are reminded about the importance of gratitude. Jesus’ use of a rhetorical question demonstrates that gratitude should have been at the forefront of the minds of those who were healed. Instead, they were more concerned with themselves than God, and, although they may have felt gracious that they were healed, they chose to not return and recognize God.
The question Jesus poses is much like the moment in Genesis where God asks Adam: “Where are you?” Clearly, God did not need help finding Adam in the Garden. But by responding, Adam was made to face the reality of his actions. Jesus has a similar goal in this situation. He asks this question because he wants those in his company to understand the necessity of gratitude. Jesus does not need the other nine to come to him and say “thank you.” But, God deserves at least that much. And as we read in the passage, salvation, not only healing, is granted to the Samaritan.
Just as we are commanded to pray without ceasing, we must also remember that “In all circumstances [we should] give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (Thessalonians 5:18). From this understanding, gratitude becomes a responsibility. It is so significant that both Cicero and G.K. Chesterton remarked that gratitude is of such great importance that other virtues follow from it. And, our Catholic faith is rich with examples of faithful persons who demonstrated gratitude in both good situations and tribulations or suffering.
When I wake up each morning, I have a choice to make. I can be angry with God that I am sick. When I consider all that has happened and will happen, it would be fairly easy to do so. But I prefer to thank God because, in spite of everything, he has blessed me with life and will never abandon me.
Don’t be one of the nine.