Offering Gratitude: Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019
Today’s Gospel story of the ten lepers is appropriate for Thanksgiving weekend. This account from Luke is sometimes used when there is a particular focus on thanksgiving in celebrations of the Eucharist (which, of course, always deals with gratitude). Ten were cleansed of leprosy, but only one turned back to Jesus with words and actions of gratitude. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet.
Jesus summed up the story, Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was not of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? It was not the Jew who turned back; it was the Samaritan. The reading from 2 Kings shows the same attitude of gratitude from Naaman the Syrian, a foreigner. Naaman wanted to show his thanks by offering a gift.
My experience is that it is often the foreigner, outsider or person on the margins and fringes who is spontaneous in offering gratitude. It may not always be words or prostration. It could be in simple, but heartfelt, action such as offering food or other gifts.
Think of the widow’s mite from elsewhere in the Gospel. She gave what she could. Those who have received healing or a listening ear so often offer what they can. They cannot afford a commemorative plaque or an elaborate gift. People who come for spiritual direction often bring little treats such as homemade muffins, date squares or homemade jam.
Any Jesuit middle school, high school or college that I’m aware of offers both scholarships and tuition-free places in the classroom. I may be wrong – our Jesuit educators will have to correct me – but I suspect that many of the recipients of this generosity are among the most thankful.
They are unable to take for granted the gift they have received. I know that I have read of alumni who have gone on to have successful careers and become generous benefactors. They are grateful for something they received, precisely at a time in life when they needed it.
They are often the ones who step up and endow a new wing or a series of scholarships. Or, if they cannot afford financial generosity, they offer to serve on boards or committees, or to give a talk to current students.
The tenth leper and Naaman both had an awareness of being in need. They also stepped up. Naaman was determined to offer something. The tenth leper came back! Does it really matter the way in which they showed their gratitude?
We will continue the focus on gratitude with tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Day post. On this Sunday, let us take time to bring our gratitude to God.