We have heard the Gospel story about the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus but only one returned to give thanks — a Samaritan, a people despised by the Jews for their beliefs.
But what may have happened to the other nine that were healed?
Were they accepted again in their own families? Did people think that they did not have leprosy in the first place? We will never know what their fate was.
However, there is an important lesson for all from this story: what does it mean to be ungrateful?
In the United States we observe Thanksgiving Day, which is a beautiful celebration. However, we must ask whether this is just a token holiday, rather than an indication of how we live the rest of the year.
Some people live their entire lives according to a philosophy of “take, take, take.” It is an attitude that says, “I am owed something by almost everyone.” As a result, we may treat others with disdain and look down on those who do not have much, or who do not meet our expectations for a successful life.
The effects of being ungrateful are many. When people fail to give thanks for their blessings, they lose a sense of wonder in life. Nothing impresses them. Nothing is new. Whatever one has is nothing special. They adopt a bored outlook on life, and constantly seek more and more possessions and pleasure.
As a result of this attitude, we contract the leprosy of envy. It slowly destroys us as we become jealous of others and then begin to blame others for what we do not have. Ultimately, we end up blaming God.
And when we blame God, then the practice of religion becomes less and less. Going to Mass and receiving the sacraments are no longer important, we think, because if God really exists, he has failed us by not giving us everything we want.
Gratitude, on the other hand, changes us. When we are grateful, we have another way of looking at life and the world, one that gives us a reality check. We know that there are problems, but also many more blessings. Gratitude requires humility.
To become grateful, we need the power of Christ, who heals us through prayer, Mass, confession and the Scriptures. The very word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.”
We have everything within our reach to become people of gratitude year-round, and not just on occasion. However, as always, this possibility requires us to exercise something else God has given us: free will, which enables us to choose to return in humility, like the Samaritan leper, to the true source of our blessings.
Father John Bednarik, O.F.M.Cap., is a Capuchin friar and parochial vicar at Queen of the Universe Parish in Levittown, residing at the Padre Pio Friary in Philadelphia.
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