In our journey through the Gospel of Luke this liturgical year, we are hearing some of the most iconic stories from Scripture. This 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time provides us with yet another — the healing of the lepers. This particular story is filled with many lessons, but one stands out. Jesus notices that out of the 10 who had come to be healed and who eventually experienced healing, only one returns to give thanks to Him.
Jesus’ question is very obvious. Where are the other nine?
If you have read commentaries on this part of Luke’s Gospel, you might notice that there are several possible occurrences that kept people from being directly grateful to Jesus. Some might have been so shocked and stunned by their healing, and its consequent freedom and reentry into society, that they didn’t know how to act. We’ve all been there.
Some might have been so excited that they returned to their families and friends to show off their healed bodies and freed spirits. Some might have been afraid to return to Jesus, since religious leaders were suspicious of Him and those healed didn’t want to jeopardize their regained social status. Whatever the excuses or reasons, they didn’t come back to Jesus to express gratitude.
This Scripture passage gives us an opening to reflect on our lives. We can start by recounting all the ways that we have been gifted by God, whether that be healing or other ways. Many of our greatest feelings and blessings come after a period of trial, suffering or difficulty. We have known pain or deprivation, and out of these experiences, we often turn to God with our need. Our conversation with God might sound like pleading, bargaining or promising, but our suffering, pain and inconvenience is what urges us to turn toward God. It seems, however, that when we do experience a response to our prayers, we fail to return with gratitude. Many of us live surrounded by incredible blessings, living lives of comfort and convenience, and yet we fail to reach out to God in thanksgiving for the gifts that He has given us. Where are we when gratitude is called for?
We are in the midst of the All Things New strategic planning of our parishes, schools and institutions. We have lived with these gifts for so long, but have we taken them for granted? Do we cling to things we find valuable, no matter how precarious they are, because we think of them as ours? It might be good for us to fill this time with gratitude rather than cynicism, to give thanks to God for the parishes that have been vibrant communities of faith and for the schools that gave us such incredible leaps in knowledge and grace. This might be a time for us to give thanks to God for the richness that our life in this archdiocese has already given us.
How about if we all take a deep breath, find a reason to be grateful rather than complain, and become more conscious of the way that God is healing us and blessing us every single day of our lives. Let’s not wait till those blessings fade or disappear, when we’re tempted to be cynical or destructive in our words and deeds. Let’s be among those who always return to God in gratitude and thanksgiving.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.