(Sirach 50:22-24; Luke 17:11-19)
Why is Jesus annoyed that the other nine lepers do not return to give him thanks? Can he not appreciate how their first reactions after being so completely marginalized might be jubilation, not thanksgiving? Since he healed ten, does he feel personally offended that all do not recognize his power? Or is there another explanation more characteristic of Jesus?
The fourth preface for weekdays may provide a clue to answer these questions. The preface is the prayer of thanksgiving that the priest makes on behalf of the people at Mass just before the consecration of the bread and wine. One option of the many prefaces available uses these words: “Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness but makes us grow in your grace.” In the gospel Jesus is not upset because he is slighted by the nine lepers who do not return. Rather he is sorry that they do not take advantage of the gift that God extends by our giving thanks. Jesus reveals God’s inestimable gift of salvation when he tells the grateful leper, “...your faith has saved you.” As terrible a curse as leprosy is, it cannot compare to eternal oblivion. In contrast, the tenth leper has found his way to never-ending communion with the Lord.
Today we pause to thank God’s for many gifts, but especially prosperity to our nation. Although salvation has a radically personal element, still the environment in which we find ourselves contributes to it. God has blessed Americans with universal education, an over-abundant food supply, and almost limitless opportunity to practice virtue. Like the good leper we seek salvation today as we turn to God in thanksgiving for all our blessings.