Readings: Wisdom 6:1-11; Psalm 82; Luke 17:11-19
Jesus travels along a borderline, between Galilee and Samaria, on his way to Jerusalem. He encounters a group of people obliged to live permanently on a borderline, a group of ten lepers. Lepers were required to live outside, though it is clear that there were moments when they came close to healthy people and healthy people came close to them. It must have been a tense, anxious kind of existence. How was traffic across this social border to be regulated?
They cry out to Jesus as other lepers do, as well as countless people who come to Jesus looking for healing. All ten are physically healed, the gospel tells us, but it seems that only one is spiritually healed. Only one came back to give thanks. To be capable of gratitude is to be graced in a more profound way. It means recognising the giftedness of what we have and are. More importantly it means acknowledging the giver of all gifts that come from the kindness and generous love of God our Saviour.
It is an important transition in the spiritual life when people come to focus on the giver of the gifts rather than on the gifts that the giver gives. It is another borderline along which we find ourselves travelling: thinking of ourselves and our needs, thinking of the other and his gifts. The capacity for gratitude means freedom to receive, to be indebted, to be dependent, and to acknowledge the bonds that hold us across all kinds of borders.
The freedom to receive is also the source of the freedom to give. In receiving graciously we not only learn to give thanks, we also find the confidence and the power to give, to share what we have and are (because we are continually receiving what we have and are).
'What's the magic word?', parents says to children when teaching them to be grateful. 'What are the saving words?', we might say. They are kindness and generous love, mercy and renewal richly poured out, grace and eternal life, from the Father's Son, in the gift of the Holy Spirit.