The Gospel for October 9th, 2016: “The Cleansing of Ten Lepers”
Reflection: Gratitude for the Gift of Faith
I love the pithiness of this gospel. Ten lepers cross paths with Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. They appeal to His mercy and ask for pity, a sign of faith. Jesus mysteriously commands them, “Go show yourselves to the priests” (14), which they obey. As they do so, they realize their leprosy has been healed. I think the wording is important: “As they were going they were cleansed” (14). One of them, a Samaritan, thinks to go back and thank Jesus for this gift of healing. Jesus, noting the other nine did not show their gratitude in this way, says to the renewed man, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you” (19).
The significance of this episode clearly speaks to the connectedness of gratitude and faith. I would go so far to say one cannot exist without the other. While all ten acted out of faithfulness in asking Christ to heal them and received the gift for which they asked, I wonder if only the grateful one will continue to participate in that gift of salvation as he moves forward in a new life without leprosy. The others may no longer be marked by the horrible disease; but without gratitude, I wonder if they won’t become infected by other sins that will cripple them in the days that follow. I say this not to indicate that Jesus will take revenge on their ingratitude, but rather their faithfulness will recede and by replaced by sin in the period during which they forgot that all that is good in their lives comes from Jesus. Gratitude is the proper disposition in which to believe, act on, and sustain this salvific relationship.
I realize the inference I am drawing from the passage may be too large a logical leap without some doctrinal or theological support. If I may, I would like to skip the lengthy research of this type and instead offer support for my thesis from the Rosary. The First Luminous Mystery, the Baptism of Jesus, provides the spiritual gift, “gratitude for the gift of faith.” In contemplating the baptism by John of Jesus, who came take away sin and offer new life in Him, we remember our own baptism cleans us of original sin and gives us new birth in the faith that we are children of God. In that faith lies an eternal good that can only come God. By cleansing us of sin, as Jesus “cleansed” the ten lepers, and gifting us with a life in Him without sin, we find ourselves blessed in an existence that is so superior to the alternative that gratitude is the only possible state of mind we can have if we only contemplate the gift. Hence, remembering Jesus’s sanctification of baptism in the Luminous mysteries goes beyond acknowledging the manifestation of our faith. It gifts us with gratitude, the only reasonable response to receiving the gift of eternal life. Gratitude, like charity, is one of the marks of true faithfulness. They are indeed connected. As in the Rosary, our prayers need to be infused with gratitude in order grow in faith. Otherwise, we may find ourselves, like the nine ungrateful lepers, saved from one manifestation of sin, only to invite more sin to plague us during the separation from the Lord caused by our forgetfulness to be truly thankful.