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About gratitude…

Apolonia Berzina, Riga 2nd Parish of LAMB

I want to share my thoughts:

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance  and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19 NIV

Today’s gospel text and reflections will make us think about a very important aspect of our life in faith. How strong is a person’s ability to be grateful?

A person is always ready to accept, but at the same time, with amazing frivolity, he is able to forget the one who gave this hope and expectation. In the case of biblical revelation, of course, God is behind the giver. And such a harsh, one might even say accusatory, truth lies with a person throughout the history of mankind.

And there is certainly no reason to talk about what has just been said in the past. Today, it is just as terrible and so frank to speak about the inability of a person to appreciate, recognize and pay tribute to God, who is still kind to this world, the Lord God. 

First of all, I would like to touch a little on gratitude itself. Not so much in form – when, where and how we should be grateful, but in content. What does this word actually mean? What processes, what spiritual strings will be touched by gratitude, because, of course, naked and sometimes so the formal word “thank you”  can say something important about true gratitude. 

As I said at the beginning, the perseverance of human gratitude has always been weak. And, in turn, this lack of gratitude inevitably suggests the weakness of true faith, which the world always demonstrates. The gospel situation with ten lepers could not be called an exception. I would like to go even further – we could not call ourselves an exception…  This event today is very expressive. Jesus meets ten lepers on his way. These were people whose fate in the world and society of that time was not even desired by the enemy, because it was simply impossible to imagine something even harder. Infected with this disease, a person has lost everything, except for the society affected by the same disease. You are slowly, in front of everyone, disappearing from an incurable disease. The social and quarantine rules of that time do not even allow you to get close to the settlements. They also prevented a separate healthy person from approaching about 50 meters (there is a similarity with Covid), and therefore these unfortunate people stopped from afar and shouted: “Jesus, Lord, have mercy on us!” This cry for help did not go unnoticed: And seeing them, he said to them: Go, show yourself to the priests. And it came to pass that as they went they got well. And the rest then loudly shows what a great tragedy lies in the heart of a person who does not really know gratitude. And it came to pass that as they went they got well. And one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell at his feet, giving thanks to him: he was a Samarian. Then Jesus turned and said to them, Were not ten cleansed? Where, then, are these nine? Is there no one else who has turned back and glorified God besides this one? And he said to him: get up, go; your faith has saved you. 

“Are not all ten healed? Where are nine? Did no one return and glorify God, except for this stranger? This was, is, and probably will be a significant minority of those who experienced healing, while not forgetting the Healer himself.

This remark would be perfectly understandable here, how can it apply to those of us who pray to God and think they can give thanks to the Lord? But, let’s ask ourselves and try to give an honest answer – aren’t we mainly looking for gifts, and not the donors themselves? Isn’t it the case that we seek blessings for the borrowers and not for the Blesser himself? What true gratitude means is the words of the Gospel: “He returned and glorified God.” God is glorified, not what happened. At the same time, it was the other way around with the other nine. Apparently, at that very moment, these others returned to the maelstrom of life, forgetting what freed them from their fate. 

Glory was given to God, and not  what he received- it also makes us wonder if we are sometimes like these nine? It should also prompt us to think more deeply about whether God has sometimes, without realizing it, become something that we turn to only when it is necessary. You know, God can and often does become the supreme authority for help, which should be called upon only in rare, special circumstances. 

Going further in your reflections, you can ask yourself, what exactly does such an attitude of ingratitude lead to in a person’s life? And here there will be something to say about what you have received, and here, too, everything is not so simple. Looking at the people around you, looking at the logic of events in history, perhaps the axis of reaction is related to evaluation. Yes, we are ready to accept and at the same time we are ready not to appreciate what God has given. Well, what can we see, even superficially, looking at the last twenty years of our country? We were bad because we lacked true freedom. We got freedom, it was bad for us that we had no money. We receive money, we feel bad that we do not have the required amount. We feel bad that we no longer have youth and health. And there are many more reasons for such a deterioration in our well-being…  But in the end, we will be able to draw one conclusion – the reasons that make us feel bad are much more than what makes us feel good … It is also important here what the media feeds, which also mostly say something bad , almost no room for good. In the end, it remains only to conclude that there is nothing good in this life. But really? Maybe we just didn’t appreciate what we already have… We didn’t take into account what David once said in his song of thanksgiving: Say to the Lord my soul and all that is in me, His holy name. Tell the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all that He has done for you. And, of course, this weak appreciation is inevitably accompanied by a weakness of gratitude.

There is another very common danger to our gratitude. It’s just getting used to.  Get used to life, to its components, amenities, their application. It’s addictive to the point where we start to take it as a completely self-evident addition to our lives. It goes without saying that we lose the will to give thanks for this. It goes without saying that the only way out of this situation is through losing. A loss that allows us to return to a clear view of things, their place and value in our lives. 

Toward the end of the reflection, I would like to say more. Each of us wants to be, we want to live in joy and gratitude. But it’s not uncommon to find that a lot is missing. It would be appropriate to ask specifically, by what means did Christ heal this man? What was His offer? “Go, report to the priests!” This is not unimportant for us. Healing does not happen on a flat surface, in an instant. Healing, and today the healing of our souls, does not happen overnight, but in obedience to the words of Jesus. It can happen on the way to the church that Christ founded and left on earth, so it’s a special place where He can be experienced very directly. In His spoken Word and in the feasting of His grace as bearers of His immediate presence.

On the way back to the once lost holiness, on the way to the grace of God, there is healing of our hearts, true faith and genuine gratitude. On the way to God’s blessing, we will all receive praise from God. All. Not one but ten.