Luke 17: 11-19
Ingratitude in one form or another is one of the most distressing human attitude most especially after we have given someone a gift, favour or service. It breaks our hearts when our gift is rejected and never acknowledged or appreciated.
The Jews expected favours after all they were the chosen people of God. The ingratitude of the nine Jewish lepers was a testament to such an attitude. They felt it was their due and there was no need to say Thank You. The Samaritan who was considered a foreigner turned back praising God in a loud voice and throwing himself before Jesus, gave thanks for the gift of healing.
The word hospital comes from the Latin word hospes which means host or guest. A hospital is not just a place of healing but a spiritual respite when we encounter God through pain and suffering. It is a short period of rest or relief from something unpleasant when we are taken cared of as special guests. Through the hands of doctors, nurses and staff and with the help of medical science and technology, we experience healing and revival. It is an institution where we encounter the joy and wonder when a mother gives birth to her new born or when miracles happen beyond the explanation of medicine. We also encounter frustration and distress most especially when death beckons in spite of the advancement of technology and science. The hospital is a passage of life where we encounter God! When a person leaves the hospital after being revived surely give thanks to the doctors, nurses and staff but the question is “Did the person encounter God while he/she was a guest in the hospital?”
The nine Jewish lepers represent those who take the wonders of life without acknowledging God who is the source and the giver of all gifts. These are the takers who think it is their due because they work for it so they deserve it. Some think that these wonders are part of the accidents in nature and nothing else. The Samaritan leper is the Christian who always goes back to God, acknowledging, thanking and praising Him for such wonders.
We say “Thank You” to God verbally, sometimes mentally when we receive favours from Himmost especially when our prayers have been answered. But how do we “go back” to God just like leper did? We do it when we praise God together with those who experience the same favour through the liturgy. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistein which means to give thanks. The Eucharist is the highest form of prayer and thanksgiving. It is the apex of our liturgy when we come together like “a community of lepers” needing God’s mercy and at the same time thanking Him for gift of healing which is our salvation.
Pope Francis in a recent interview saw the Church as a “field hospital” where sinners are like lepers encountering the mercy and hospitality of God. This is the reason why we always go back to the Eucharist because it is not enough to say “Thank You” to God alone and privately. We need the other members of the Christian community to ritualize our gratitude through a liturgy which is acceptable to God. This is the wonder of the Holy Mass!