October 9, 2022
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Kings 5:14-17
2 Timothy 2:8-13
“Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
I have always been fascinated by this line of the Gospel. We can see how frustrated Jesus felt that only one of the 10 lepers who were healed came to Jesus giving thanks to God.
I think we easily say thank you, every time or most of the time, when we receive something from others. I mean, that’s what our parents and teachers taught us to do — “say thank you!” Most people are very polite by saying “thank you,” but are we really grateful?
As many of you might know by now, I grew up in Colombia. My family was poor. We couldn’t afford much as I was growing up; we as a family had to work hard to cover our basic needs: food, clothing, shelter and education. My siblings and I had a hard but happy childhood. Now reflecting on why we were so happy growing up, I believe it was because we were always thankful to God for everything we had. No matter how little we had, no matter if I had to wear clothes from other families who donated them to us, or if we had to play with wood toys that we made ourselves, we saw everything as a gift from God.
But this experience was not just for my family. In Colombia, and I have seen it in other cultures as well. We always say, “Gracias a Dios” (Thanks God). No matter what, we always say, “Gracias a Dios.” How are you? I am good, Gracias a Dios. How was your day? Good, Gracias a Dios. Even when we received a gift or favor, we respond, “Gracias, que Dios se lo pague” (Thank you, may God reward you). As kids in Colombia, we are taught not only to be thankful to the person, but to God, too.
The main point in the Gospel passage for this Sunday is not the great miracle of healing that the 10 lepers experience but the Gospel inviting us to reflect on the gratitude of the one leper. I think all of us ask God to help us in great and little things. I think we are very grateful to God when he blesses us in great ways: getting a job, for a successful surgery, being safe after an accident. But how many of us, yes including me, have asked for a little favor: to find a parking spot, to do well on a test, to help us find the lost keys, etc.? We turn to God in need, as the 10 lepers, but when God delivers, we usually are like the nine lepers who do not take the time to give thanks to God.
Imagine that you have a friend who is constantly asking you for help, and time and again you help your friend, but that friend does not show his gratitude for all the many ways you have helped him/her over the years. How would you feel? Unappreciated? Taken advantage of? Used? Angry? Frustrated? That friend is you and I with God. Thank God, he has infinite love and patience for us, but let us be grateful for all the blessings that we receive from him daily.
I believe that we fall into the temptation to create problems where there are none, to judge and criticize; we tend to make our challenges and bad experiences and situations bigger and worse than they truly are. I think we do those things because we do not stop to appreciate and be thankful for all the good things we have and receive each day.
Do you know that Jesus models for us how to be thankful? Eucharist means thanksgiving. How wonderful that Jesus gives thanks by endlessly offering himself and making a gift of himself to God and to men. Whom does he thank? Most certainly, he thanks God the Father, the model and ultimate source of all giving. But he surely also thanks the poor sinners who are willing to receive him, who let him enter under their unworthy roof. The Eucharist (Mass) is the perfect moment to give thanks to God as individuals and as a community.