Readings: 2 Kings 5: 14-17; Psalm 98, Response: The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power; 2 Timothy 2: 8-13; Gospel: Luke 17: 11-19
This Sunday’s Gospel invites us to reflect on our sense of gratitude. How grateful are we for God’s blessings? A subtle but equally important question is, how many times have we been ungrateful?
The lack of gratitude in the story is clear when nine out of the 10 lepers did not return to Christ after being healed.
Some details make this lack of gratitude worse.
First, the grateful leper was a Samaritan, and presumably the other nine were Jews. It’s ironic that the one who was supposedly an “enemy” of the Jews showed gratitude to the rabbi who healed the lepers.
Second, this story is a good example of the saying, misery loves company. As despised outcasts of Jewish society then, the 10 lepers banded together and even included the Samaritan. But the moment the crisis was over, each went his own way.
Third, they had a desperate plea for help, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” The very act of crying out was an act of desperation, knowing that they were outcasts. But once the crisis was over, it was, to use a Filipino phrase, “laglagan na.”
It’s sad that there are people who, when in need, can be humble and longing for compassion. But the moment they get some relief or good fortune, their true colors, their self-centered side, come out.
I think it is important that we honestly examine ourselves during these moments of being ungrateful—when we are effusive with saying “please,” only to be incapable of saying “thank you” when the request is granted.
Let us now focus on the grateful leper. His gratitude was deep because he knew he was the least deserving among the 10, being a Samaritan. He had no basis to have a sense of entitlement, which is one of the greatest hindrances to being grateful.
Gratitude begins with humility and bears fruit in the experience of great spiritual freedom.
Benefits of gratitude
In a 2003 study, psychologists Robert A. Emmons and Davis Michael E. McCullough validated the “benefits” of gratitude. For example, gratitude does not only make us feel good in the present, but it also improves our ability to do well and feel good in the future. Gratitude also deepens and builds up our sense of spirituality. Gratitude is likewise a form of love.
Gratitude, the study revealed, is a virtue, a grace that liberates us. It begins with a positive feeling after an experience of being blessed. This develops in us the ability to carry this positive outlook into the future.
This sense of being blessed is an effective way to overcome a sense of victimhood, which plagues not just individuals, but entire societies or cultures.
Gratitude and grace
The second point, the relationship between gratitude and spirituality, is a natural one. Gratitude and grace are intimately linked. We often ask for grace in our prayer, and this reveals our view of God as a giving and generous God.
If the nature of God is giving, our response of gratitude becomes our nature. This spiritual relationship now frames gratitude as a relationship of love.
St. Ignatius of Loyola described this relationship of love as gratitude, amor con amor se paga, returning love for love, out of a deep sense of gratitude to a gracious, generous and loving God.
Like the grateful leper in this Sunday’s Gospel, we see other people in the Gospels who respond with gratitude to the grace of healing and forgiveness. They dedicate their life to glorifying God and following Christ.
The question of how grateful are we is the same question that the Risen Lord asks Peter in John 21: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Love and gratitude are the graces we need to pray for the most—and everything else will follow. —CONTRIBUTED