|Cleansing of the 10 Lepers from Codex Aureus (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).|
There is a well-known yarn, one which may or may not be true, that you can find in the writings of a nephew of Mark Twain, writings about the famous author and Nobel Prize winner, Rudyard Kipling. You remember the things Kipling wrote like "Gunga Din" and "The Jungle Book," both of which were made into movies. Kipling sold one of his books for a price that netted him one shilling for every word, which might be about 40¢ a word today. So sure enough, one wise guy mailed him a shilling, asking him for one word. Rudyard Kipling responded with one word: "Thanks." Well, in today's gospel (Luke 17:11-19) Jesus gave ten lepers something far more significant than a shilling: he restored them to physical wholeness. Yet only one man responded with that precious word, "Thanks."
Two things make this episode unusual. First, only one of the ten men returned to give thanks to Jesus for the healing. Since Jesus made a pointed comment about this, it highlights the direct connection between gratitude and faith. One precious gift, faith, should lead everyone to the proper response, gratitude. An obvious message is that every Christian should be so grateful for the gift of faith-that-leads-to-salvation that they will praise God daily for so wondrous a gift. We believe in God's promise of salvation, and we recognize that he died to save us. When we stumble and fall through personal sin, the Sacrament of Reconciliation once again restores us to spiritual wholeness. Grace upon grace, gift upon gift! Praise and thanksgiving for God's tender mercies should well up in us throughout the day, every day!
The second unusual detail in this gospel segment is that it was not the nine Jewish men, but only the Samaritan who demonstrated his gratefulness for being made whole. He returned, throwing himself at the feet of Jesus in thankfulness. Jesus had every right to be sad, seeing that only one person saw fit to return and thank him for the healing, especially since the other nine men were fellow Judeans. Jesus did not "need" their thanks; he had experienced rejection before. But he knew that the insensitivity of the nine men gave a glimpse into the condition of their heart and mind. They may have been cured of leprosy of the body, but they now had spiritual leprosy of the mind, a condition of ingratitude and ungratefulness.
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