Now it happened that on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus was traveling in the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee.As He entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.” When He saw them He said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself prostrate at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This led Jesus to say, “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? Has no one else come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner?” He said to the man, “Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.”
– Luke 17: 11-19
All too often, I am one of the nine lepers.
I have some worry, some concern, some need and I pray for God’s help. And, gracefully, I get it. But then I am on to the next worry, concern, or need. My original angst is mercifully forgotten, but along with it, my gratitude.
There is an old saw that says the two most frequently uttered prayers are, “Help me. Help me. Help me.” and “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” So true. Unfortunately, too often, I overlook the second prayer.
For years, I was asked by my parish’s youth minister (and subsequent dear friend) to engage in conversations on the Catholic Faith with recently confirmed high school juniors and seniors. The discussions were wide-ranging about being faithful in the modern world. Questions arose about hot button issues such as abortion, capital punishment and chastity. Discussions explored the wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI, G.K. Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor and John Henry Newman (among many others). But throughout our weekly discussion I weaved the narrative I found inescapable in the lives of the prophets, the saints, and, frankly, each one of us: The narrative of Dignity, Calling, Suffering and Grace.
Let me explain.
We are dignified children of God – created as indisputably special and intrinsically valuable because we are God’s children. We are all called to some greater purpose that is unique to each of us. It is essential that we pray and study and open ourselves to the direction in which God is calling us because, as Mary, the Apostles, the Prophets and the Saints would all attest, it is often more splendid, challenging and life-changing than any of us would anticipate (or craft for ourselves). We will endure suffering. It is inescapable. Life is not easy and the call to faithfulness involves sacrifice and pain, faith and resilience. And grace awaits us. Whether we have glimpses of it here on Earth, or if it awaits us in the misty glory of Heaven, God’s grace is assured us in our acceptance of Christ and our willingness to follow him. But I have always wanted to add the indispensable concluding component of the overarching narrative.
And that is Gratitude.
Dignity is something bestowed upon us. Calling is a direction we should follow. Suffering is something we endure. Grace is a miracle we receive. In many respects, we can seem to play passive roles in this narrative.
But we do not.
It is up to us to choose God, to live in full comprehension of our Dignity, to actively answer God’s Calling, to faithfully endure Suffering and to openly receive God’s Grace. But it is Gratitude that most equates with worship. It is the small act responding to unmerited generosity. And it is the act that made Jesus respond to the tenth leper, not only are you made clean, but you are saved.
Once, G.K. Chesterton had this to say about Gratitude,
[T]he chief idea of my life … is the idea of taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted.
And as Chesterton ended one ordinary – yet wonder-filled – day, he sat down and penned this poem titled “Evening”,
Here dies another dayDuring which I have had eyes, ears, handsAnd the great world round me;And with tomorrow begins another.Why am I allowed two?
This day – and every day – let’s remember what has been done for us. Let us be the tenth leper. Let us turn from the stresses that oppress us, the distractions that surround us and even the joy that is visiting us and say what we feel deep, deep inside. A debt is owed which we cannot repay, but surely, we can say one thing.
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