On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus meets 10 lepers. They ask for mercy, they are cured, and told to show themselves to the priest who will verify their healing and ritually cleanse them so that they can re-enter society. Only one returns to thank Jesus. There are lots of commentaries and folks who conclude that the other nine, in some way, lack gratitude.
Could be, but I don’t think so… who wouldn’t be grateful to be cured of this dread disease? Who wouldn’t be grateful for being restored to their family and community? Grateful, that they are no longer banished from the towns, the market, and the usual ebb and flow of life; no longer consigned to beg day upon day without end. I suspect they were grateful.
Why don’t they come to thank Jesus? Well…. for one thing, they are doing what He told them, “show yourself to the priest.” But I wonder if the reason is also that they are grateful for the “thing,” the healing, but they fail to see, to realize the One who healed them. The word translated in the NAB as “realize” basically means “to see and come to a deeper recognition.” There was one of them who was able to see more deeply; was able to connect the dots from the good thing that had just happened to the One who was the source of the healing power.
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 .
Biblical gratitude is more than being polite. It is more than an indication that your Mama raised you right; more than saying “thank you” before you walk away. Biblical Gratitude is about connecting the dots of goodness in our life with the ones who are source of that goodness and with God, the ultimate source of all goodness.
This story should give us pause and lead us to ask of ourselves – are we grateful people at our core? Or are we thankful people. Let me give you an example. My mom is still going strong at 90, living on her own over Mt. Dora way. Do I love my mom? Yes. Am I grateful for all that she did in raising me up? And this is where the pause begins. There is a fine point in our attitude about gratitude. When you are a kid, parent have certain good things that they do – from the roofs over our head, the meals on the tables, getting us up, getting us to school, getting us ready, and more. But where is the moment when we realize – see in that deeper way – all that our parents have done – and connect the dots. When love and a little bit of “taking for granted” become love and gratitude?
At that moment, shouldn’t we return, glorifying God in a loud voice; and fall at their feet …. We should be biblically grateful. That might seem a bit dramatic, but I think you get the point. Are we people whose gratitude moves beyond the good thing done for us to recognizing the source of the goodness? Or is there a bit of taking things “for granted” instead of acknowledging people “in gratitude?”
The Welsh writer Gwyn Thomas, looking back at his life, wrote, “I remember my days and often wish I could speak into the ears of the dead the gratitude which was due to them in life and so ill-returned.” So, what about us? What about those people in our lives to whom we are connected, who lead us to “connect the dots” that they are sources of good things and blessings in our lives; that they are conduits of God’s blessings and compassion to our lives
A life-long friend? A spouse who has shared the days and nights, joys and sorrows, and the cauldron of marriage and raising a family? Grandparents, siblings, teachers, neighbors? A mentor in your profession, a co-worker, someone on your support staff, your boss?
Who should be on your list? Who is due gratitude among the living?
How about the Eucharist? Could it be that it is “something” taken for granted instead “someone” received in gratitude? I mean, Eucharist is something we Catholics do. Weekly or more. We can easily slip into familiarity. This day, when we come forward for Eucharist, say your “Amen,” will we be grateful? Realizing that we do not merit God’s mercy or kindness and yet it is given. Realizing that we have accepted the offer of God’s love, we have answered an invitation to a lifetime bond. We are to give thanks – the very meaning of the word “Eucharist.” But what happens next. Will we walk away from this moment grateful for the Eucharist in a way that resembles the nine lepers – probably grateful for the good thing and missed the “someone?” Or will be realize that we have just received someone in the most intimate of ways into our lives; that we have received the very source of all goodness and are now called to embrace a way of life that offers the same goodness and hope to others. Gratitude demands that we use our lives for God’s glory and share our blessings with a broken world – to give away the goodness and love we have received.
Eucharistic gratitude demands that we work to realize the source of goodness in our lives – the friends, spouses, children, grandparents, mentors, teachers, and so many more. Gratitude is not always simple or easy or uncomplicated. Gratitude does not prevent pain or protect us from loss. Gratitude puts us in relationships that carries demands that are inconvenient and burdensome. It does not spare us from life.
Gratitude becomes the barometer of spiritual health – marking our awareness of God’s grace in things large and small. To know all of life, every relationship is infused with God’s goodness such that each encounter becomes an opportunity to see and to respond in gratitude.
We have a lot to be thankful for…. But are we grateful? Being thankful lets us walk away. Being grateful plunges us into life to embrace a way of living that speaks gratitude to the living, not wishing we “could speak into the ears of the dead the gratitude which was due to them in life and so ill-returned.”
Gratitude is for this life. Begin today. Begin with the words we will speak: “Lord I am not worthy… but only say the word” The word has been said. Come to the table of the Lord, with grateful hearts – and carry that hope, that love, into a waiting world. Be a grateful people.