Once upon a time, a man bought a very lovely baseball cap for his son. The little boy loved the orange coloured cap so much and often wore it while playing with his mates. One day, he went with his friends to a nearby river where they spent time throwing pebbles into the river. Suddenly, a strong wind swept through, and the children remembered that they needed to run home before the oncoming rain would meet them. As they were running, the wind snatched the baseball cap off the head of our little friend. He turned and ran after it and without warning he slipped and plunged into the river. His friends were gone, and he got drowned. A farmer emerged just at that moment and jumped into the river to rescue the poor boy. Fortunately, the farmer saved the boy! He led him close to his home before speeding off as it was then raining so hard.
After few day, the farmer was in his house, and one of his children came to inform him that a little boy came with his parents in a car to see him. Instantly he remembered the little boy he saved. He was sure they came to thank him for saving the life of the boy. He welcomed them and told them that it was by God’s merciful design that he was near to rescue the boy. The father of the boy said that they came specifically to ask after the boy’s baseball cap as they have been wondering if he was keeping it after the rescue! The poor farmer was shocked to his bones at their ingratitude.
Have you ever given a helping hand to someone and instead of gratitude you receive an attitude? Imagine you held the door for someone to enter or leave a building, and after that, there was no word of appreciation. What about our reactions to God’s goodness to us? When was the last time you took some time to thank God for His many graces? Are we not often thankless to God? God holds the door of life for us every day, God holds the door of success for us every day, God holds the door of prosperity for us every day! But how many of us look back to say a resounding “Thank you, God?”
Today could be termed “Thank You Sunday” because we have the phenomenon of gratitude to God running through the First Reading (2 Kings 5:14-17) and the Gospel Reading (Luke 17:11-19). Furthermore, the Gospel acclamation tells us to give thanks to God in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). The First Reading tells us about Naaman, a commander of the Syrian army who had the misfortune of leprosy and was given a referral to Elisha for healing. Elisha asked him to go and bathe in the Jordan River SEVEN TIMES which he did though he was reluctant initially. The high point of the narrative was that he RETURNED to the man of God (Elisha) to give thanks.
The Gospel reading presents a similar scenario though with some different elements. Here there were ten poor lepers. They were not as rich and renowned as Namaan, but they shared the same illness with him namely, leprosy. Naaman came to meet Elisha by referral, but the ten lepers came to meet Jesus Christ by faith. Among the ten lepers, there was a Samaritan. Normally the Jews have nothing in common with the Samaritans, but in this case, the nine Jewish lepers shared the same sickness and status with the Samaritan leper. Among the Jews at the time, to be leprous is the same as being a Gentile. Hence leprosy brought the nine Jewish men and the Samaritan into a community of affliction.
The ten lepers saw in Jesus Christ hope and healing. And with a strong faith they cried out to him, and that was how they got their healing. Faith is an excellent virtue, but it must be accompanied by good works to make up a complete package (James. 2:14). Furthermore, faith without love is as well meaningless. (I Cor. 13:2). It was with faith that the ten lepers got their cleansing. But that was not all. Only one person RETURNED to appreciate what our Lord Jesus Christ did for him. Our Lord thus asked: “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner RETURNED to give thanks?”
In the narrative, we have ten lepers. They were all cleansed, but only one of them RETURNED to give thanks. We focus briefly on the word RETURN. To give thanks is a form of returning. It means turning back again to the source of help or assistance in utter gratitude.
When Naaman was cleansed, not only of his skin condition but also of his arrogance that initially made him refuse to bathe in the Jordan River, he RETURNED to give thanks. When he saw himself cleansed, the Samaritan RETURNED to our Lord Jesus Christ to give thanks. It was at the point of returning that the Samaritan was saved. Hence ten were cleansed, but only one got salvation. Healing without salvation is a “half-done affair”.
Furthermore returning to give thanks cannot happen unless we REMEMBER. It is on account of this that in the Second Reading of today, St. Paul admonished Timothy to REMEMBER Jesus Christ and all that he did. This remembrance is to be done with a grateful and appreciative heart. Hence anyone who is showing gratitude operates on the platform of remembrance. The Psalmist made it clear that God should be praised at the instant of remembering his Holy name (Ps 30:4; 97:12).
THE LEPROSY CALLED INGRATITUDE
“Ingratitude” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as: “Forgetfulness of, or poor return for, kindness received.” We could also define it as not being apt in appreciating or valuing what we have or what we have received. Unexpressed gratitude is also ingratitude! Ingratitude is one of the most dangerous plagues besieging our human society today. Most people receive gifts and favours from others and forget to return those two words “thank you”. Often, most of us yearn for certain things from others; we fret for them as if we could die the next minute; but when such things come to us, we speed off as if they came on account of our merit or inheritance.
The narrative tells us about Leprosy which is a chronic infectious disease that destroys the skin. Beyond this, we discover that the nine lepers who did not REMEMBER to RETURN and GIVE THANKS had another form of Leprosy which is ingratitude. This form of Leprosy goes beyond the skin to attack the mind and the soul. Many of us are today suffering from this mind/soul disease of ingratitude, and most of us are not ready to accept a cure.
Our ingratitude starts from ourselves and then extends to God. Gratitude, even for a minor favour can bring more favours just as ingratitude could dismiss more favours. For the tangible and intangible things you get from people, do you REMEMBER to RETURN and say THANK YOU? Often we feel that the favours we receive are our rights or that people are obliged to give them to us and that there may not be a need for us to return and show gratitude. Kristen Clark once said that there are three causes of ingratitude: envy, entitlement and expectation. For these reasons, I observed that some people say “TANK YOU”, and we often think they mean “THANK YOU!” Thank means you are a mere TANK that ought to contain favours.
In our relationship with God, the situation is even more shameful. Imagine if we buy the air we breathe the same way we purchase the goods and services we need; how many of us would still be alive? We often don’t REMEMBER to RETURN and say a heartfelt THANK YOU to God. Many of us have been blessed and favoured in various great ways by God, but we have not for once REMEMBERED to RETURN to God and say “THANK YOU”.
God is so passionate about Thanksgiving! It is to this end that He would declare in the book of Psalms (50:8-14) that he does not take delight in bulls and goats but in the sacrifice of thanksgiving through which he will deliver us in the time of trouble. Ingratitude is a form of Leprosy!
Today we are challenged to submit out minds and souls to God for the healing of our leprous condition of ingratitude. We need to move from our thanklessness to thankfulness. Each of us should take time today to reflect deeply on REMEMBERING and RETURNING thanks to God and to the people who have assisted us in one way or the other. We need to appreciate the divine and human favours we have received and still receiving. Gratitude does not diminish us it rather opens more doors for us. Give thanks (Ps.107:1) and have a THANK-FULL Sunday and a blessed week ahead!