Many years ago I received a little book for a birthday present and the title of the book was “He Remembered to Say Thank You.” The book turned out to be a bible story about ten lepers who were healed by Jesus and only one turned back to say thank you. This story is recounted for us once again from the Gospel reading for today. The story seems basic enough and does not easily provoke a response from us. We have been taught from childhood that it is proper in any situation to say “Thank you” whenever someone says or does something to our benefit. So one can easily conclude that the story is one about people with bad manners or about persons not being trained in the social graces that is the expected norm in society. While this understanding is true to some extent we certainly would do no justice to the word of God by ignoring or glossing over the element of faith which is the real target of the story. Ten lepers cry out to Jesus for Him to have mercy on them. The understanding is that Jesus tells them to go and show themselves to the priests, which was the way of validating experiences that were out of the norm. Note that the lepers are not healed and then sent to the priests but rather, while they are on their way to the priests their healing/cleansing takes place. Upon recognizing his healing one among the group of ten stops, he turns back and goes to Jesus to say thank you. Three important points follow after the former leper has returned. He is identified as a Samaritan; he is described as one full of praise; and he is described as one whose faith has worked towards his wellness.
Samaritans and Jews have no dealings with each other and yet when both ask of Jesus (a Jew) for healing and only a Samaritan returns to give thanks, faith has to be highlighted as playing a major role in the behaviour of this individual. We are told that he prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him and we are also told during his return walk to meet Jesus that he was praising God with a loud voice. This is a beautiful example of how praise and thanksgiving are so intimately linked to each other. Indeed we can say that to praise is to give thanks in a prolonged and joyous manner with the best that is to be found within us. Jesus commands the Samaritan to stand and sends him forth with confidence, “Get up and go your way; your faith has made you well.” The Samaritan’s faith has indeed played a role in his healing but Jesus seems to place the emphasis on the Samaritan’s relationship with God. All ten were healed while on the way to show themselves to the priests. One can understand what it means at times to be overwhelmed with emotions that one may forget or perhaps delay in saying an appropriate thank you. However, this can
not and does not reduce the fact that God and God alone is to be given full recognition whenever beautiful and amazing things take place in our lives. Such was the reaction of the Samaritan: he immediately acknowledged the change in his life and no one else was more deserving of his thanks and praise than God. Thanks and praise therefore emanated from a heart that was desirous of pleasing God. Sadly, in our world and even in our Churches there are those whose greatest desire is to ask of God and get whatever they can get. These are often the same persons who, when challenged about not coming to worship and fellowship, would respond with the words, “Oh, God understands.” God certainly understands that we want what we want and what God wants is taken for granted. As we continue to practice saying “Thank you” let us be mindful that our actions must also reflect thankfulness. Praising God for his goodness and turning to God first in every situation do not only reflect our joy but they are wonderful testimonies to our faith in our God. They speak to a relationship that is already on its way to becoming better.
Rev. Fr. Dwane Cassius