Opening the Word: Salvific gratitude


We form our children from an early age to express gratitude. When we fetch them a cup of water and an afternoon snack, we teach them to say, “Thank you.” This, after all, is part of possessing good manners.

As the child develops, of course, we hope that this thankfulness does not continue as a mere formality, a capitulation to social graces. We want our children to take up a disposition of gratitude, to recognize the gift of life itself.

As Christians, there is something about this formation into gratitude that resonates with us. We profess faith in a God who created simply because God wanted to share divine life with creation. We adore a God who entered into a covenant with Abraham, who rescued Israel from slavery and gave the Law as a gift.

Even when Israel ceased to obey this law, the Lord gave mercy. And in the fullness of time, God’s mercy became flesh, Jesus Christ. He loved unto the end, dying on the cross, as a sacrifice of love offered back to the Father.

As a mentor of mine always says, “Christianity reveals that the meaning of life is gratitude.” Our weekly celebration of Christ’s sacrifice is even called the great Eucharist, which means thanksgiving.

For all these reasons, we may approach the event of the 10 lepers in the Gospel of Luke as an enacted parable of gratitude. Like the Samaritan, we must learn to give thanks to God for all that we have received.

Still, perhaps there is more to the 10 lepers than we might initially notice. After all, the one who has come back to give thanks is the Samaritan.

In Luke 10, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, we discover that the kingdom of God inaugurated by the “daybreak from on high” (Lk 1:78) is intended for all those who keep the Law. The neighbor is not one’s fellow co-religionist but everyone who does the will of God, giving to the point of excess.

We could think about the miracle of the 10 lepers as completing the parable of the Good Samaritan. This time, it is the Samaritan who is wounded on the side of the road. He is a leper, ritually impure, and thus a social outcast. He is healed by Jesus and is the only one who comes back to give thanks to God.

This act of gratitude is linked to Naaman’s healing at the hands of Elisha. Naaman is a commander of the Syrian army, not a son of Israel. He is healed of his leprosy and comes back to Elisha to give thanks. He wants to give him something.

Elisha refuses. Instead, Naaman asks for two mule-loads of dirt from Elisha to offer sacrifice. He believes that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is attached to the very dirt where he is standing, confined to a place. And thus, he wants to take this dirt home with him, to worship God in Syria.

The Samaritan no longer needs to ask for this dirt, because he stands in the very presence of this God. He adores Jesus, lying prostrate before him. He places his face in the dirt, discovering the presence of God not attached to the land but to the person of Jesus.

So, yes, we Christians should give thanks to God for all things. But we should also recognize that because of Jesus, the vocation to give thanks is not reserved just to our little parish, our little tribe of Christians.

Jesus Christ is to be worshipped throughout all lands, in all places.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Should Joe Biden have been denied Communion?

Monday, November 11, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion The recent report that a priest in the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, refused holy Communion to former Vice... Read More

Opening the Word: The redemption of death

Friday, November 8, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Those who attend a Catholic college or university often take courses in the history of the Bible. The student discovers... Read More

What fruits will the ‘Idol Synod’ bear? Time will tell

Wednesday, November 6, 2019
By: Christopher Altieri History is funny in the holdovers it keeps from its first draft — journalism — and in those it discards.... Read More

There’s been a lot of talk about priestly celibacy, but what does it mean?

Monday, November 4, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Throughout much of October, Pope Francis presided at a meeting of bishops from the Amazon River basin in South America,... Read More

The God who loves all

Friday, November 1, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley At the time of Jesus, the Pharisee was a son of Israel who took the Law seriously. Aware of the temptation of religious... Read More

Safe injection sites fail the medical ethics ‘sniff test’

Wednesday, October 30, 2019
When a federal judge ruled Oct. 2 that Philadelphia’s proposed safe injection site would not violate current law, the court overlooked a few... Read More

When is silence not golden?

Monday, October 28, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo We all can use more silence in our lives. We live in a culture bombarded by all kinds of noise and distractions. I should know. My... Read More

Opening the Word: Who is the Pharisee?

Friday, October 25, 2019
By:  Timothy P. O'Malley At the time of Jesus, the Pharisee was a son of Israel who toook the Law seriously.  Aware of the temptation of... Read More

Turkey’s invasion of Syria strikes a blow against Christians

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
By: Edward Clancy President Donald Trump’s order to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria effectively greenlit Turkey’s invasion... Read More

Not so great expectations

Monday, October 21, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo Most moms and dads have great dreams for their children to grow up and do something that matters. From a Catholic perspective,... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!