Giving Thanks

The Gospel reading that is often used at Mass on Thanksgiving Day is from Luke 17: 11-19, the story of the ten lepers. As Jesus was making his way toward Jerusalem, ten people with leprosy called out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” He heard them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” They went on their way. As they traveled toward the Jerusalem temple, they were cleansed of their disease. One returned to thank Jesus, and this one was a Samaritan. Jesus asked where the other nine were, and then told the Samaritan to go on his way; his faith had saved him.

As I read the story, I realized that none of the lepers actually asked Jesus for healing, just pity. Yet Jesus knew what they desired. He did not use words of healing, but only told them to go show themselves to the priests. People with leprosy were considered unclean and therefore were outcasts in their society and religion. They could not enter the Temple until they were free of their disease, confirmed by the priests. When Jesus told the ten to show themselves to the priests, the implication was that they would, at some point, be free of their leprosy. For the other nine who were healed, this meant they were able to complete their journey to the Temple, connect with their community, enter their religious sites, and engage in their ritual practices again. For the Samaritan, this could not happen.

Samaritans and Jews hated each other in the time of Jesus. A Samaritan would not be welcome in a Jewish town and especially in the Temple. He would remain an outcast until he returned to his own place in Samaria. The other nine may have thanked God for their cure with an offering in the Temple. The Samaritan could only return and thank Jesus, who had healed him as he traveled.

We each have our own reasons to be grateful. Let us remember not only to thank God for our blessings, but to ask for the healing that will also bring us together as brothers and sisters to thank the God who is Father and Mother to us all.

Happy Thanksgiving. God bless you and yours every day.

Sister Elaine M. Berkopec