Healing and thanksgiving

For me, the theme that stands out the most in the gospel reading for today is thanksgiving–its presence and its absence. Jesus heals ten lepers who ask him for pity, and when he offers them healing, only one falls at his feet with thanks. It’s a human kind of thing to do: to be in need of God, ask for what we desire, and then we get it, move on to the next concern rather than spend some time in gratitude for what we have received. For example, if I am worried about a family member’s health diagnosis, I might pray that everything go well, and when we discover the verdict is “not cancer,” quickly say thanks and move on. But we miss out on a profound part of our relationship with God if we don’t take the time to give God thanks.

Today, we might take a little time to look back at past times when we have asked God for what we desire, and God has come through for us: the healing of a relationship, the well being of another person whom we love, getting a job that we had hoped to get, someone saying yes to a deep wish that we thought might never be fulfilled. God is always “laboring on our behalf,” Ignatius of Loyola said. So there is constantly reason to give thanks for all that God has done on our behalf.

It is interesting that the one person who thanks Jesus is a Samaritan, an outsider. I wonder if he was especially filled with gratitude because at some level, he thought he did not anticipate it, or think it could really happen, and so the gratitude was that much greater.

I’m also intrigued by the term “pity” in the description of what the lepers ask for from Jesus. It’s interesting to me that they don’t ask for healing, but for pity. I imagine that pity was the response that they had received and grown comfortable with over many years. Maybe we, like the lepers of this story, can get so comfortable with a certain problem in our lives that we have a hard time letting go of it when the reality changes. For example, imagine a person who still feels a deep sense of loss over a period of unemployment that took place more than a decade ago, even though he now has a wonderful job. Or imagine a person who continues to dwell on relational wounds from the past that have been healed, because it is easier to stay in the old narrative than to create a new narrative about oneself or others. God really does heal and assist us in our growth, and that of others. Do we let this sink in and lead us to gratitude, or do we want to stay with our own old comfortable stories?

Today we can take the time to think about where God has given us good gifts in our lives—healing, blessings, new relationships, new images of self and other— then give thanks, and consider how we want to respond to God’s gifts.