Today St. Paul reminds us that we were saved by the kindness and generous love of God our savior and not by any deeds we may have done in our lives. The very word “grace” speaks of the freely given love of God bestowed on us simply because God is merciful.
I am sure that throughout your lives you have been industrious and very successful teachers, nurses, administrators and housekeepers. When things go well, when we feel like we have done good things, it is tempting to believe that our success is of our own making, and we fail to give thanks. We fail to see the truth. Thinking this way leads to the “malice and envy” of which St. Paul warns us in his Letter to Titus. This inevitably happens when we realize that others who perhaps have not been as successful appear to have more than we do – more accolades, more appreciations, more plaques and trophies. The truth is that all things come from the hand of God. Our successes are really God’s successes.
This is easier to see when we are in need, when we are struggling. Then, like the lepers in today’s Gospel story, we cry out, “Have pity on us.” Jesus heals all of them. The nine Jewish lepers are constrained by Jewish Law to go to the Temple to be examined by the priests. Homilists have a habit of blaming them for not returning to thank Jesus. The truth is that they had no choice. It is only the one Samaritan leper who was free to return to thank Jesus. He realized that he was saved by God and not by the Law. He was not healed by any of his own deeds but by the free and generous love of God.
May the same thing be said of our thanksgiving!
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator