As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 17:11-19)In their initial encounter, Luke describes the group as lepers who shout to Jesus from a distance. They were defined by their infirmity; there was no separation between Samaritan and Jew. What distinguished the lepers was their response Jesus’s healing. The Jews followed their laws and rituals, returning to the temple to show themselves to the priests, while the Samaritan returned to Jesus with a clean heart, throwing himself at Jesus’s feet. They all received physical healing, but the transformation of the Samaritan’s faith was the real antidote to a deeper affliction of the soul. Barbara Brown Taylor put it like this: “Nine behaved like good lepers, good Jews; only one, a double loser, behaved like a man in love” (The Preaching Life, 1993). Do you allow religious practice and duty to distract your heart from truly praising Jesus? Whilst ministry is not a numbers game, we can still face discouragement with low responses to the invitations we offer to encounter God. And yet, this did not diminish Jesus’s love for others, even when he had a one in ten return for his investment. We must continue to scatter the seed like the sower, on paths, rocks, thorns and the good soil – for we do not know where it will take root (Matthew 13:1-23). Luke’s Gospel doesn’t mention the nine Jewish lepers after they were sent to the temple, perhaps some eventually realised in their hearts that they had encountered God’s healing through Jesus. We don’t always see the fruit of our labour and that is ok. On the other hand, it is easy to be ungrateful, to attribute our success to our own efforts and ignore the working of God through our lives. Our joy and gratitude must be found in the recovery of the one lost sheep (Luke 15:3–7). Fr. John Bartunek describes gratitude as one of the most beautiful and rare flowers in the garden of virtue.
It directly contradicts self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and self-absorption. It builds bridges, unites communities, and softens hearts. It encourages and inspires. It cuts through discouragement and counteracts depression. It opens the soul to the truth and releases anxiety. It brings smiles and gladness wherever it blooms. What a pity that it is as rare as it is lovely! (Catholic Exchange 10/05/2016)The Marist Youth Ministry team in Adelaide has started the #GratitudeProject and posts weekly about those things we can easily overlook: opportunities to learn, the love of others, for those who give, those he come before us, our uniqueness and ability to listen, for the gift of water, life and friendships. On a daily basis, parents teach their children to express their gratitude. “Don’t forget to say thank you” is a regular piece of advice in our family. Beyond basic manners, we must also encourage our children to appreciate what God has done for us through our own example. What draws you back to celebrate the Eucharist each week: Are you bound by obligation, duty, or habit? Luke’s Gospel reminds us to go beyond blind obedience and move more deeply into a relationship with God, following Mary’s example of gratitude for the great things He had done for her (Luke 1:49). This attitude of gratitude will keep bringing us back to the One who never stops loving us, who will tell us to “rise and go” out to share our faith with others.
Copyright 2019 Nathan Ahearne
About the Author
Nathan Ahearne's faith journey has helped to shape the person he is today as husband, father, teacher and formator of young people. His vocation and faith are strengthened and nourished by those he encounters in service and contemplation. Nathan is a creative thinker and likes to roll up his sleeves and see projects through to completion. He is a John 10:10 fan. Read more at Expressions of Interest.