Thanksgiving Day, 25 November, 2021: Sirach 50:22-24; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19
Why didn’t the other nine lepers thank Jesus?
They all obey Jesus when he tells them to go show themselves to the priests. Were these nine so intent on following Jesus’ instructions, that they didn’t yet notice their healing when the Samaritan did?
In any case, they continue to their goal while the Samaritan returns to Jesus. And it is Jesus who says, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Is that the answer to my question?
Before they were healed, all ten of them were outcasts; but even cleansed of leprosy, this Samaritan is still an “outsider.” He probably would not receive a warm welcome from a Jewish priest and he would not be allowed into the Temple of Jerusalem. But might his alienated state give him a better perspective on reality since he could have no expectations or privileges in that Jewish society?
The nine others, now “insiders,” can comply with the proper procedures and, doing what they were told, presume that God is thanked and business is concluded. The Samaritan has no place in the system: does that open his eyes to the gracious person-to-person nature of his healing? He sees Jesus as a person who cares about him and he feels gratitude. Seeing the human person before him, he recognizes God, not as an impersonal force, but as personally involved in his wellbeing.
Like him, I first have to acknowledge that there is something to be grateful for and that it came through someone. And I do this best when I have no expectations of entitlement or take the benefits that fill my life for granted. It is certainly through these human interchanges that I experience the providence and compassion of God; but is only when I can connect with other human beings as persons, not as useful instruments, that I can recognize the personal touch of God. I certainly need the perspective of the outsider, as the person on the margins, rather than a secure member of the system, to see fully dimensional persons rather than systems. Then we can connect in gratitude.
Our society, with its sense of entitlement, can celebrate a National Holiday of Thanksgiving once a year; yet how often do we actually feel grateful?