Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 9, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 2 Kgs 5:14-17 / Ps 98 / 2 Tm 2:8-13 / Lk 17:11-19
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A story is told about a magical horse owned by a priest. The horse would run only if the phrase, “Thanks be to God,” was uttered, and the horse would stop when it heard, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” One day, a Protestant man borrowed the horse, and he was instructed in the magic words that were needed to make it run or stop. The man said, “Thanks be to God,” and sure enough, the horse started to run, and when it was about to bump a tree, he said, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” and the horse stopped abruptly. Then he let it run again, by saying, “Thanks be to God.” He was enjoying the ride until he came near a cliff. Unfortunately, he forgot the magic words to stop the horse. He tried, “Our Father” – it did not stop. “Amazing Grace” – the horse continued to gallop. When the horse was almost to the edge of the cliff, he suddenly remembered the words, and cried out, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” The horse stopped just in time. The man sighed in relief, “Thanks be to God.”
Whatever happened to the other nine? The nine lepers were cured and did not return to thank the Lord. Leprosy was a terrible disease; terrible not only because it destroyed the body, but also because its victims were separated from their families and society. There were very strict laws that prohibited lepers from mixing with healthy people. Imagine the sufferings of the lepers. I bet the cured lepers ran home to their families. They must have been thrilled beyond description. There must have been some grand celebrations.
But why did only one return? I’m sure all intended to return and thank the Lord. Perhaps we can understand if we put it in modern day language, so here it goes. Mary had to return home and clean the house; there were only men living there and the place was a mess. Aaron arrived home just in time to save the harvest; he worked day and night. Martha had to catch up on her favorite TV series. David found his business in crisis and dedicated himself to getting it in order. Amos returned to find his wife had remarried and moved away; he drank his pain away. Peter lost his old job and was looking for a new one. Anna headed back to thank the Lord but could not resist that sale sign in the shopping mall. And so on.
So, there you go, brothers and sisters – excuses, excuses, excuses, all except Simon the Samaritan. Jesus had given the sick the gift of life, and like any gift, it cannot be complete without a thank you. Yes, we teach our children to say thank you. We celebrate Thanksgiving each year as a national holiday. We have a need to say thanks.
We celebrate the Eucharist each week, and the word Eucharist means thanksgiving. A gift requires a thank you, not so much for the giver, but for the receiver. The poet George Herbert wrote, “Oh God, you have given us so much. Give us one more thing – a grateful heart.” We see miracles all the time. We have seen how many times people have been cured of diseases, sometimes with no logical medical explanation. When people are sick or dying, they take their relationship with the Lord seriously. Many return to the sacraments and change their priorities in life. But when the crisis is over, some of them are never seen again in the church.
If we examine our lives, we can see God’s hand in so many instances and close calls. We all have been touched by Jesus. This Sunday, let us ask ourselves, “Have our lives changed as a result of the encounter?” Are we like one of the nine, superficial in our relationship with Christ, except when we think we really need Him? Or have we responded like the Samaritan? Today we are reminded to be grateful for everything. Gratitude is something that we cannot ignore at the expense of our decency and integrity.
The first reading, according the Second Book of Kings and the gospel of today, presents to us an attitude of gratitude. Naaman after being cured of leprosy and the Samaritan after being healed by Jesus. Why is an attitude of gratitude to God crucial to the wholeness of mind, body, and spirit? Apparently, to be made well, we must add thanksgiving to our faith. The person who makes such acknowledgement experiences a salvation that goes beyond the merely physical cure. It is a reorientation of the inner life.
How is our impulse to thank others related to our impulse to thank God? What does gratitude contribute to our being made well in body, mind, and soul? Why is it so important that Jesus would chastise those who didn’t value it? Gratitude keeps us connected to the giver of the gift. It helps us recognize the source of a gift. Furthermore, it keeps us grounded in the value of the gift as we take it into new pursuits and places. All good gifts come from God.
The attitude of gratitude keeps us focused on the source of life, love, and each new day. Maybe when we acknowledge the source of love, we are more likely to share it with others. Maybe that is why it is important enough for Jesus to lament its lack from the other nine. So, brothers and sisters, we will not forget to thank the Lord for all the blessings that we have received in our lives.
May Jesus Christ be praised.