Sunday, October 10, 2010

Recognizing the Gifts of God and Giving Thanks

Charity never humiliated him who profited from it, nor ever bound him by the chains of gratitude, since it was not to him but to God that the gift was made. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Gospel text (Lk 17:11-19): On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus was passing along the border between Samaria and Galilee, and as He entered a village, ten lepers came to meet him. Keeping their distance, they called to him, «Jesus, Master, have pity on us!». Then Jesus said to them, «Go and show yourselves to the priests». Now, as they went their way, they found they were cured.

One of them, as soon as he saw he was cleansed, turned back praising God in a loud voice, and throwing himself on his face before Jesus, he gave him thanks. This man was a Samaritan. Then Jesus said, «Were not all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God but this alien?». And Jesus said to him, «Stand up and go your way; your faith has saved you».

How can the virtue of gratitude be acquired? Fundamentally, cultivating the spirit of gratitude requires us to develop humility. We need to understand that everything that we have and everything that we are is a gift. We might begin by taking out a pad of paper and a pen and making a list of all of the wonderful gifts that we receive each day of our entire life.

We could start with life. We have been given the gift of life. Consider the air that we breathe. We take such things as air, water and even good health all for granted. We need to consider our families, the houses that we live in, the food that we eat each day, our education, our jobs, and the fact that we live in a free country.

The Gospel relates a more familiar story which has an important twist. Ten lepers shout for healing and when they receive this gift, only one returns shouting his praise. The twist is more complicated than that the healed person is a Samaritan, a foreigner. Perhaps the major difference has to do with “humility”. Jesus asks about the other “nine”. I imagine that they were not ungrateful, but more likely not humble enough to admit that once they were outside, different, unwelcomed.

It is not so much about who gave thanks and who did not. Jesus is dedicated to calling all of humanity away from the leprosy of self-righteous pharisaic posturing. Here is a little thought. The “nine” represent most Christians, at least in this. They enjoy being freed from leprosy, but lose contact with the reality of their having been outsiders, alienated, defined by something negative. They might be grateful, but they are not sure grateful for what.

The “one” represents each of us when coming to our senses; we get in touch with what it means to be redeemed by Jesus. We get in touch with our soul’s sicknesses. We touch into how disordered, depressed, angry, and or violent we once were and immersing ourselves seven or more times in the river of the redeeming Jesus, we both enjoy the freedom from, and the freedom for, the living out of His touch.

So, as we consider this Sunday's gospel narrative, we recall that gratitude is a rare virtue indeed. We need to be filled always with gratitude for God's unconditional love. We need to always thank all those who serve us and love us with the generous service. Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" (Luke 17: 17).

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