This weeks gospel sees Jesus cure ten lepers at the border of Samaria and Galilee, and only one comes back to give thanks. The first thing that strikes my mind is the place where this occurs: between Samaria and Galilee. The boarder areas are where those discarded from society have ended up with nowhere else to go. But both the Galileans and Samaritans would have each discarded lepers from within their respective communities which have now found comfort in the company of each other. It is through this community, through the fringes of society among the forgotten and insignificant, where Jesus performs this great miracle.
The second thing that comes to mind is that only one returns to give thanks. There are many analogies than can be drawn from this. One clear one today is the seemingly small number of church-going Catholics as compared to the nominal Catholics. We might be baptized, catechized, and sacramentalized but are we thankful, and showing that we are thankful? Thanksgiving is one thing we can offer God that he doesn’t already have. Think about that! He who created all, in whom we and everything exists, lacks something – thanksgiving. This is the reason for our highest form of adoration – the mass, also called Eucharist, which means thanksgiving. This passage is ultimately Eucharistic.
At further look at the scripture passage one may notice that the lepers didn’t come asking for healing, they asked for mercy: “Take pity on us” or another translation has, “Have mercy on us”. While mercy draws on a notion of compassion it goes beyond that. Mercy removes suffering; mercy is connected to justice. Jesus has done both of these. By healing them (removing their suffering), he says “show yourselves to the priests” which restores the relationship between the cast community and their leaders (justice).
One last observation, bubbling under the surface until the end, is the notion of faith. “Your faith has saved you” Jesus says to the one who gave thanks. But all ten had faith in Jesus that he could and would show mercy. Even after he did reveal his power to them, only one returned. The difference? His faith – faith to save. But they were all saved; from isolation, from persecution, loneliness. But only one was saved spiritually – eternally. The one who felt his unworthiness for healing so deeply that he had to return and give thanks.
It can be easy to be caught up with the next item on the to-do list that we don’t stop and give thanks, especially to God. How often we take things for granted. Take a moment now. What have you got to be thankful for? Name it, specifically. Thank him now.
If your faith does not call you to action you might not be saved. Practice faith daily, even if starts as a recognition of power and a return of thanksgiving. This humble act acknowledges a source of power outside of ourselves: it acknowledges God. So go in peace, glorifying The Lord by your life, thanks be to God!