Saying 'Thank you!' always

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

28th Sunday in ordinary times

From time immemorial and even after the discovery of its cure, no disease is more feared than leprosy. Its nature is such that it slowly eats away parts of the body thus deforming the patient. Among the Jews, lepers were made to live away from the community so that others would not be infected. Moreover, they lived solely on alms. People, even their relatives, avoided them. They were considered “unclean,” cursed by God.

Once, while Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, ten men who had leprosy met him (Lk. 17:11–19). They stood at a distance (i.e., away from others) and called out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” By beseeching Jesus that way, they believed that He could do something about their malady. Jesus told them, “Go show yourselves to the priests” — as required by the law. As they went, they were healed. One of them, when he saw he was cured, came back to Jesus, threw himself at His feet and thanked him.

By curing the lepers, Jesus showed that He did not reject them, even though their religion did. At the end of the story though, Luke tritely remarked, “He (the one who returned) was a Samaritan.” The story gives us ample lessons on gratitude and actually giving thanks.

In the first reading (2Kgs. 5:14–17), we saw Naaman, the commander of the king of Syria and a pagan, healed of leprosy by the prophet Elisha after he obeyed the prophet's “prescription” to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River. In gratitude, Naaman offered to reward Elisha with riches. He refused knowing full well that his power to heal was totally God's gift. Naaman then satisfied himself by loading two mules with soil with which to build an altar in his homeland before which he would worship and thank God. The cure made him a believer in the God of Israel. The story reveals a great truth: both the donor and the recipient must give thanks to God.

If we look at ourselves there is really nothing that we are and have — our life, talents, possessions — that we can claim as our own as all of them are gifts from God. For this reason, we must always thank God for His generosity to us. At the same time, we must not use the gifts we have received from God as if they are for our personal benefit only. He wants us to share them with others, specially with those in need, as a sign of our gratitude to Him and to give Him glory.

The trouble is, when we give to others, we consider them as owing us a favor, a debt of gratitude. And never for a moment do we allow them to forget that! As if what we are giving and sharing are totally ours! Would it not be wonderful if we are able to give without remembering and to receive without forgetting?

In life, we take many people for granted. The first in line is our parents. This is so because they have been and are always there for us. Like God, they just keep on giving without counting the cost. It is precisely for this reason that we should express our appreciation to them. Thus if we are fortunate to still have our parents around, let us not wait till they are gone to express our gratitude. Doing it now means much more to them than the money we would spend for the luxuries of a burial.

Moreover, gratitude is a close relative of happiness. A husband and wife who often express their gratitude to each other maintain a happy relationship. This because they feel the other's sincere appreciation for what they are and what they do. They are thus encouraged to continue to become better persons. As happens, when words of gratitude cease to be exchanged, they are replaced with words of criticism and displeasure. These negate all the good which brought them happiness in the first place.

Also in life, often times we treat others better than we do God. If they do something good to us, we immediately say “Thank you.” For many of us, this is already a habit — a product of our upbringing. And this is wonderful. But if we are very quick in saying “Thank you” to others, why are we not so to God? There are so many things to thank God for. We can thank Him for all the gifts He has given us, specially the gift of His Son for our redemption. We can also thank Him for the innumerable good things that have happened and continue to happen to us. We can even thank Him for our weaknesses and sins for they show us how weak and vulnerable we are and therefore are always in need of His grace and forgiveness.

Definitely, God wants us to thank Him always. Though the shortest, saying “Thank you, Lord!” is a wonderful kind of prayer. If we do so constantly, then Jesus will not say of us as He said of the nine, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Rather, He will say to us as He said to the Samaritan, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”