Joseph L. Farrell, O.S.A.
Curia Generalizia Agostiniana
2 Kgs 5: 14-17
Ps 98: 1, 2-3, 3-4
2 Tim 2: 8-13
Lk 17: 11-19
It can be too easy, at times, to create dichotomies and divide the world into two groups. For example, there are those who like anchovies on their pizza and those who do not. There are those who have musical talent and those who do not. The political situation in the USA also creates the possibility to dichotomize the voting population into two categories. These divisions are not always helpful and, at times, create hurtful, and at times, hateful divisions among us. At the risk of creating another dichotomizing characteristic of the world’s population, I would like to offer another example. There are those who send “Thank You” cards and those who do not.
Perhaps there are some people who are immediately coming to mind right now for you. I have some friends and family members who send out a quick and sincere “Thank You” almost immediately after receiving a card or gift. (I know one person, who admittedly can be a little obsessive about this, and even sends “Thank You” cards after receiving “Thank You” cards.) There are others who are the exact opposite, they may be well meaning and have every good intention of sending a “Thank You” card or note, but then life distracts them and time passes and then it becomes “too late” to send the note of thanks.
Although I try to be attentive to acknowledge someone’s card or gift, there are certainly times I fall into the category of being distracted and forget to send a note of appreciation and thanks. I think that people generally like to receive “Thank You” cards and notes. If for no other reason, they like to know that the gift or card was received.
The readings we have for our Mass this weekend remind us of the importance of saying “Thanks.” Naaman wanted to thank the prophet Elisha with a gift of gratitude for the healing he received after being told to wash in the Jordan River seven times. The gospel story from Luke recounts the time when Jesus was traveling through Samaria and Galilee on the way to Jerusalem, that is, on the way to his passion and sacrificial death, and was approached by 10 lepers and asked for healing. After their encounter with Jesus, they were told to go and show themselves to the priests. We know from the book of Leviticus (chapter 14) that the priest was the one who could officially declare someone cleansed from leprosy. This declaration included a ritual with two birds, one was killed and its blood was used to “clean” the live one which was dipped into the blood of the sacrificed bird. This ritual contains clear imagery of the spiritual cleansing that takes place in all of us when we are cleansed with the blood of Christ.
Luke’s gospel tells us that it was while the 10 lepers were on their way to the priests that they realized they were cleansed of their disease. Then, only one of them, recognizing the more important spiritual cleansing that occurred thanks to Jesus, returned to offer his gratefulness. The other nine, perhaps were too distracted by the physical healing and cleansing, and continued on their way to perform the physical ritual with the priests. The distractions of everyday life prevented them from acknowledging the spiritual gift received. The Samaritan who returned to Jesus, acknowledged the gift received. He wanted to make sure Jesus knew that the gift was received.
Whether we are good at sending “Thank You” cards, or not, today’s readings remind us all of the importance of acknowledging that we have received a gift. The gift we receive here is Christ’s saving grace. It is the gift of God’s very self to us, and in this Eucharist we pause to give thanks and to let God “know” that the gift has been received and that we are grateful. The spiritual cleansing that takes place when we are “washed” in the blood of the Lamb, is a gift unlike any other gift or cleansing or physical healing we may receive. Let us then offer a prayer of thanks this day in gratitude for being cleansed of our own leprosy or disease of our sinfulness. Let us not find ourselves in the group who are too distracted with life and forget to say “Thanks.” Just like with writing “Thank You” notes, one has to develop a habit. Let us work, then, at developing that habit of being grateful to God and acknowledging the gift we receive in Jesus Christ.