October 13, 2019 at Saint Peter and Saint William Parishes in Naples, FL
2 Kings 5, 14-17 + Psalm 98 + 2 Timothy 2, 8-14 + Luke 17, 11-19
In the second act of Shakespeare’s play, “As You Like It” Lord Amiens, a musician sings before the Duke these words: “Blow, blow, thou winter wind, thou are not so unkind as man’s ingratitude; Thy tooth is not keen, because thou art not seen, although thy breath be rude. Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky, that does not bite so nigh as benefit forgot: though thou the waters warp, thy sting is not so sharp as a friend remembered not.” And so today, the Word of God speaks to us about gratitude, healing, faith, and salvation all in one well known story.
It does not take a lot of study and prayer with these verses to notice how suffering can bring together people who are enemies. What else was that hated Samaritan doing with the other nine? They needed one another, and suffering often brings people together who nothing in common. Suffering either brings people close to God or drives them away. There does seem to be a third experience. It is also easy to notice that nine are cured, but only one is saved. We don’t know what happened to the nine, but it allows us to think that they returned home with bitterness in their hearts. That Samaritan was an outsider, and he is the one who sees his gift. The nine are insiders who often take everything for granted. Sometime you have to be outside to see things as they really are.
Jesus was not expecting thanks, and that is not what he responded to. Jesus saw more than gratitude. He saw faith which is what prompted him to announce salvation of the Samaritan. “Has no one come back to give praise to God except this foreigner?” he says. In a sense, that Samaritan had two healing experiences: one concerned his physical condition, the other his spiritual condition. He came to faith, to gratitude, through a conversion, and he represents our best hope as we gather in this place always giving thanks. Think of the last words that will be spoken in this liturgy. Unfortunately, they are sometimes missed by other announcements about a hymn number or picking up after yourselves; I wish it wasn’t so, because you really have the last words after being bid to go in peace. What are they?
Gratitude is something that ought to come naturally to us, but sadly we are often better at demanding it than in giving it. Saint Thomas More said this to confirm that truth: “We write in the sand the benefits we receive, but the injuries we write on marble.” Once there was a traveler who came upon a barn where the devil stored seed which he planned to sow in the hearts of people. There were bags of seeds marked: “Hatred”, “Fear”, “Doubt”, “Despair”, “Pride”, “Unforgiveness”, and so on. The devil appeared and struck up a conversation with the traveler. He gleefully told him how easily the seeds he sowed sprouted in the hearts of men and women. The traveler asked, “Are there any hearts in which these seeds will not sprout?” The devil looked sad, and he said: “These seeds will not sprout in the heart of a grateful and joyful person.”