“Gratitude is the heart’s memory” (French Proverb). The ten lepers in the Gospel owed their lives to Jesus; yet only one of them came back to thank him.
It’s seems strange that the one who came back to give thanks was an outsider – a Samaritan. But isn’t that how it it often is? The insider takes everything for granted, and is taken for granted too. The outsider, on the other hand, sees everything as a gift. We find the same thing in the First Reading. We see the foreigner, Naaman, coming back to thank Elisha for curing his leprosy.
We are better at demanding gratitude than at giving it. This indicates how selfish much of our giving can be. If anyone finds his brother ungrateful, it is not the other person’s happiness he is seeking, but his own.
Jesus demanded gratitude, but not for himself. What he said was, “Has no one come back to give praise to God except this foreigner.” From this it’s clear that he wasn’t thinking of himself. He was thinking of the lepers. It is a good and necessary thing for the recipient of a favor to be able to show gratitude.
It is very important for us to be able to express thanks. It’s good for ourselves in the first place – it forces us to acknowledge the debt we owe to others. And of course it”s good for the other person – it makes him /her feel appreciated. The person who does not give thanks for little, does not give thanks for much. Hence, the importance of being grateful for, and appreciating, the small favors done and services rendered every day.
As for expressing gratitude to God: God doesn’t need our thanks, But we need to thank God. It reminds us that everything we have we owe to him. It’s easy to be grateful to God for the good things that happen to us. But we must try to be grateful for all of our lives – the bad as well as the good, the sorrows and the joys, the failures and successes. This is no easy task. We can truly call ourselves grateful people only when we can say thanks for everything that has brought us to this moment. This kind of gratitude enables us to reclaim our whole past, and to see it as the concrete way in which God has led us to this moment.
When we look back over our lives, we see that the things that hurt us and the things which helped us cannot be separated from each other. We must try to see the guiding hand of a loving God in all that has brought us to where we are now.