The Gospel passage from today’s liturgy describes the healing of the ten lepers. When Jesus is entering their town they cry out, “Jesus! Master! Have pity on us.” He replies, “Go show yourselves to the priest.”
As they are on the way, each of the ten are healed. Only one takes the opportunity to return to offer thanks to Jesus.
Probably to the surprise of those gathered there and for those hearing this story in the nascent church, the man was a Samaritan. He, who would have been considered a foreigner and to many an enemy, was the one who gave thanks.
A similar happening is recalled in the first reading from the Second Book of Kings. Discovering he has leprosy, Naaman the Syrian comes to Israel to seek out Elisha whom he hears can cure. The passage for today’s liturgy picks up the story after he is healed. Once he has realized he was restored, Naaman returns to Elisha with words of praise and thanksgiving, saying: “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”
Both accounts highlight three points which we might consider this week: God heals, his saving activity goes out to all peoples and the appropriate response to God is thanksgiving and praise.
God heals. Most of the time, we think of the word “healing” in reference to an illness being cured or a sickness being overcome. However, when we consider all the other aspects of our lives, not just the physical, we soon realize the need for healing is great, and that most of us have that need as well.
Some of us are victims of violence, prejudicial attitudes or exclusion by peers. Many are “stressed out” by the pressures of life or the loss of a job, having to move unexpectedly, losing a loved one, mourning a broken or damaged relationship or being ridiculed. And still others regret missed opportunities, live with fear, or battle addiction to drugs, alcohol or pornography.
Whatever the situation, the need for some kind of healing is evident. God offers us the opportunity to be healed on the inside, and the experience his remedy within our own hearts. The Scripture passages today remind us of that power.
God’s saving activity is for all peoples. Naaman and the Samaritan leper were both healed. God’s love reaches to all peoples. The responsorial psalm acclaims this, saying: “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.” God can heal any of the wounds we carry inside ourselves.
Where do we turn for help when we recognize that need for healing? We can always turn to the Lord. He is always there and he is always faithful, as the passage from our second reading, taken from Paul’s Second Timothy, reminds us.
Thanksgiving and praise. Thanksgiving and praise are so important for living a good life; hence Jesus is surprised that only one of the ten lepers came back. There is a popular expression “God is good” to which people respond “all the time,” and then recite in reverse. Recognizing God’s goodness requires attention and practice so that one can be authentically grateful.
The act of thanksgiving is woven into the fabric of our communal life in the church. Every time we gather around the altar, we “give thanks,” just as Jesus did when he took the bread at the last supper. The word “eucharist” comes from the Greek word for “giving thanks.”
Yet we can go further in our own recognition of God’s goodness every day. One exercise that might help is reflect on the Lord’s work in our lives at the end of the day, and to write down (on a piece of paper or in a journal) “Thank you God for,” followed by three specific things that you are grateful for that day. The exercise helps us not only to be thankful but to recognize God’s goodness to us – in other words, to recognize his love.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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