In today’s Gospel proclamation we are told that only one of the ten lepers returned to Jesus to offer praise and thanks to God for his cure, which caused Jesus to ask: “Where are the other nine?”
Every time I hear this account, my reaction is embarrassment. But why? This happened over 2000 years ago, and yet I feel somehow ashamed and embarrassed as if it had just happened. I wonder if it is because of the way I was raised; you know, the voice of your parent, “Did you remember to say thank you?”—especially to Jesus!
I think we would all like to believe that we would be the one who returned with thanks and praise; but don’t you just have a twinge of concern or fear that you might have rather easily been one of those nine others who became caught up in themselves and their incredible good fortune that any thought of thanksgiving just seemed to evaporate?
Lately I have come to associate thanksgiving with forgiveness. At first it does not seem to be such an immediate connection. However, if you think about it, both acts—thanking or forgiving—reward the one who thanks and the one who forgives. Both acts are even known to improve one’s health. St. Paul instructs his readers, “Dedicate yourself to thankfulness.” Why? Because thankfulness to God—for the day, for a friend, for an answer to prayer, is part of being in a real relationship with God and part of living the reign of God now, on Earth. Thankfulness is part of an “at peace” disposition, part of human happiness.
Forgiveness likewise rewards the one who forgives. With a sigh of relief, one who has forgiven is able to then move on—get on with life instead of being a prisoner to hate and resentment, or (God forbid!) prisoner to years of ill health generated by all the energy spent and abiding negativity required to hold a grudge. Imagine, “No, I don’t have forgiveness in my heart. I have grudginess”—you’ll also probably have an ulcer or shingles before it’s over. And then one has to ask, if possessed in spitefulness, how far has my heart wandered from being dedicated to thankfulness?
So what did happen to those other nine lepers? We’ll never know. We do know, however, the joy and happiness of the one who returned to thank the Lord. We know that his relationship to Jesus deepened and produced even greater rewards. Not a bad thought seeing as how the supermarkets are already putting out the stuffing mix for THANKSGIVING.