As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. 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. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” – Luke 17:11-19
These poor lepers are outcasts, banned from communion with all society. Their only hope is Christ. They have nothing to lose by asking, and so they make their plea. Standing at a distance from Christ, according to the law, they acknowledge their own helplessness and beg for mercy. They receive it. Christ heals them and they go on their way, satisfied with his gift. To our Lord’s dismay, however, only one returns to give thanks. Only one is Eucharistic; only one is saved.
Our Lord rewards gratitude. Why is our thanksgiving so important to God? In a way, by showing gratitude we justly return to God what He deserves. Take the example of the lepers. They are helpless outcasts. They can’t do anything for themselves except beg – much like our situation before God. We, too, are spiritual lepers begging God’s mercy. If we were to accept God’s gift without giving thanks, we would be reduced to mere consumers of grace, incapable of giving anything back. But God wants to save us from that predicament and he asks our thanksgiving.
What is the dynamic of thanksgiving? When we give thanks, we are no longer passive recipients; we become active givers, giving back to One who has given us what we do not deserve. When we become active givers, God places us on another level – another level capable of receiving even more from Him. By giving thanks for what he had received, the leper was capable of receiving more from God. Indeed, he did receive more – he was saved. Saved by God’s mercy, he was now capable of receiving still more, of growing in intimacy with God. God invites us into a personal relationship today, into a Eucharistic relationship in which we are no longer mere passive recipients of his grace, but coworkers of his redemption. In living a life of thanksgiving, a Eucharistic life, we attract many blessings for our own souls, our families, our church, and for souls in danger of being lost.
As you pray today, ask the Lord to make you aware of the many gifts that He has given to you so that you may respond to Him and give Him what He truly deserves: our heartfelt thanksgiving. May we be more thankful and thus deepen our communion with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Peace and Blessings.