Dear parish family,
Gratitude to God is the most concrete expression of our faith in His saving power. The Scripture readings for this weekend demonstrate the vital importance of gratitude in the life of the Christian believer, for gratitude leads us to worship God who offers us salvation. In the first reading, Naaman went back to thank Elisha when he was cured of leprosy. In the Gospel, the Samaritan caught the admiration of Jesus when he was the only one among the ten persons healed who “returned, praising God at the top of his voice, and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.”
When was the last time you and I expressed this kind of gratitude to God? Like the nine others to failed to return and thank Jesus, often we too have failed to recognize the blessings, answered prayers, and healings, both physical and spiritual, that the Lord showers upon us every day? The truth is that our very lives and every breath we take are His gift to us. But we can get so caught up in the stresses and distractions of daily life that we lose touch with this truth.
Recognizing the extraordinary gift just received from the Lord, the Samaritan came back to express his profound gratitude. His response led to worship and earned him a far more precious gift than a physical healing. Jesus offered him the gift of salvation: “Your faith has saved you.”
Today’s Gospel is thus about healing, restoration, and life. The ten lepers were members of the walking dead. In Jesus’ time, these people were so rejected that they had to wear little bells around their neck in case they forgot the constant chanting: “Get out of my way, I’m a leper. Don’t come near, I’m a leper.” Their whole life was unbelievably sad, rejected, lost, until, of course, when they encountered Jesus. Jesus was going through another town. Lepers were not allowed to enter towns. They saw him coming and they went towards him with their little bells ringing and they said, “Jesus, Master, have compassion on us, have pity on us.”
And what did Jesus do? He sent them to his Father’s house, symbolized by the Temple. While on their way, the ten lepers were suddenly healed. Perhaps most of them ran home right away because they were forbidden to see their wives, their children and their families until they received the blessing of the priest in the Temple, who certified that they had been cured. Yet, the only Samaritan among them remembered to return to thank Jesus.
Dear brothers and sisters, in a certain sense, each one of us is a leper, a person in need of healing. We too are born for love, to be a good person, a member of a faith community, and to bring joy and happiness to all that we meet. God created us to be so. But somehow, along the way, selfishness seems to gain the upper hand and we at times have become selfish, small and narrow-minded. We need to run to Jesus, the Divine Physician, so that he can heal us, make us whole again, and send us forth on our way back to the Father’s house.
When Jesus asked, “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? I can hear the voice of Jesus echoing: why have you not come to give thanks? Some of us may feel that we are too busy to pray or go to Church. We may feel that we merited the blessings we worked hard to achieve. We may even feel that God has not blessed us the way we wanted. Of course, none of these justifies an ungrateful heart. The Scripture reminds us that “in everything, we ought to give thanks to God” (1 Thess 5: 16-18).
Dear brothers and sisters, before you leave your bedroom in the morning, remember to thank God. In the night before you go to bed, do not forget to thank Him. Show your gratitude through a grateful heart and, most importantly, come back to our Father’s house every Sunday for the Eucharist, the ultimate worship and celebration of our thanksgiving.
Gratefully yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham