In his autobiography, A View from the Ridge, novelist Morris West suggests that at a certain age our lives simplify, become whole, and we need have only three phrases left in our spiritual vocabulary: “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
A life that is filled with gratitude is life marked by maturity, by holiness, by love. The Samaritan in today’s gospel demonstrates such gratitude.
Yet, Jesus in curing the 10 lepers of their disease sounds so rude. Nor does he address the Samaritan directly. Instead, he speaks over his head to the crowd listening in.
“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?” he demands to know.
At one level, these are peculiar questions. The other nine obeyed Jesus’ command to go show themselves to the priest. They’re heading in the direction Jesus told them to go. Still, they were lacking something.
Is it the point of this story to sting the ungrateful? That certainly is a clear message. But perhaps the crucial point of the story is to emphasize the importance of gratitude.
“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.” This leper no longer had to shout from a safe distance. He came right up to Jesus and said “thank you!”
That leper was “made well,” (from the Greek sesoken, healed of spiritual disease and death.) The other nine were merely cleansed (ekatharisthesan, made clean of a disease.)
Gratitude, in other words, is fundamental to wholeness of mind, body and spirit. A grateful person is one who experiences a healing that goes beyond the merely physical cure. The Samaritan was restored to his family, his community, to wholeness in God.
In his book, Sacred Fire, Ronald Rolheiser writes: “Gratitude is the basis for all holiness. The holiest person you know is also the most grateful person you know.” To emphasize his point, Rolheiser urges us to “live in gratitude, and thank your Creator by enjoying your life.”
God blesses us, restores us, makes us whole, in so many ways, ways that we all too often take for granted. Today’s gospel tells us to start living like that 10th leper every day, to fall before Jesus and say simply “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.