In today’s gospel, Jesus healed ten lepers but only one came back to give thanks to God. When Jesus asks: “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Were none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner” (Luke 17:17-18), it shows that gratitude is not supposed to be optional but obligatory.
Healing of the ten lepers in today’s gospel narrative is one of such occasions in the gospel where Jesus performed miracle of healing on the requests of the recipients (other instances include Mt 8:2; 9:27, 32; 20:30; Mk 1:40, etc.). At some other places, the request is either from others (cf. Mt 8:6; 9:18, 25; 14:36; 15:22, 30; 17:14-16; Mk 2:3, etc.) or Jesus took initiative of the healing on his own (cf. Mt 8:14, 32; 9:2-7; 12:13; Mk 1:25, 31; 3:1-6; etc.).
The fact that the lepers made the request to Jesus makes the gratitude even more obligatory. It is also one of the instances where Jesus decoded the hidden needs of the verbal request (cf. also Mk 5:7-13). The lepers asked Jesus to have mercy on them and in His mercy, Jesus healed them. It therefore shows that the healing of Jesus is His act of mercy.
Gratitude to God usually wins us more favours. This is the case in the grateful Samaritan, when Jesus says to him: “Get up and go your way; your faith has made you whole”. His gratitude won him freedom and complete healing that emanates from faith. Likewise, by acknowledging to Titus (3:1-7), the goodness and loving kindness of God in mercifully saving and spiritually renewing them, St. Paul shows gratitude for such gratuitous work of God.
Similar to St. Paul, the Psalmist equally testifies to the graciousness of God, who safely guides him even in the valley of darkness, anoints his head with oil, fills his cup to overflowing and prepares a banquet for him in the sight of his foes (Ps 23). These could not be far from our lives at many points. Therefore, God deserves our appreciation. This should manifest both in our words and attitudes. In fact, our life should become a living thanks to God. As constant beneficiaries of God’s favours, we should naturally transit from thanksgiving to “thanksliving”.
However, sometimes, gratitude can be hard to express. Very often, in our prayer lives, we spend so much time on our knees, asking God for favours. Absolutely, in Matt 7:7, Jesus admonishes us to ask and we shall receive, and to knock and the door will be opened. So we ask, and we knock. But what happens then after we get our request and have the doors opened? Then, some forget this important part of thanksgiving.
Giving thanks is a vital and necessary part of our relationship with God. It can also be a measure of faith; a measure of our dependence on God, and of our own humility. We need to honour God with grateful hearts for what He has done for us. Little wonder, the German mystic and philosopher, Meister Eckhert, once wrote: “If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that will suffice”. Such biblical passages as today’s are reminders for us to think back on what we have been given and to give thanks in return.
“Thank you” should also form a huge part of our prayers. We need to learn to pray those words, and to make them matter. No better prayer could be been more fitting for such gesture than in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist; which in itself means Thanksgiving “Eucharistein” – “to give thanks” – in Greek; a meaning taken from the Hebrew part of the Passover meal: “Toda”.
Further, our thanksgiving to God should reflect in our consideration for our neighbours; the poor, the needy, the homeless, the rejected, the dejected, the sick and the abandoned. Another way of thanking God for His goodness to you is by praying, helping and supporting them. These make their burdens lighter and make us live happily together as God’s children.
In all, let our prayers to our Good shepherd today and always be, to Him who is able to do even more than we can ask, be all glory, praise and adoration now and forever more Amen!
[Readings: Ti 3:1-7; Lk 17:11-19]