BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, Omaha, USA.



1. Gratitude. Thankfulness guarantees happiness. To be happy, be grateful. Ingratitude guarantees sadness. Here is a story to illustrate it. One day, two old friends met each other on the street. One was very sad. The other looked quite happy. The happy fellow asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?” The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you: three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me $40,000.” “And then, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me $85,000, free and clear.” The happy friend said: “Sounds to me like you’ve been very blessed.” “You don’t understand!” the sad fellow interrupted. “Last week I made $100,000 profit from selling one of my houses.” Now, the happy friend was really confused: “Then, why do you look so sad?” And the sad man replied shaking his head: “This week . . . nothing, nothing!” In spite of all the blessing, the man was sad because he lacked gratitude for his blessings.

2. Happiness. So how does thankfulness lead to happiness and salvation? That is part of the message of today’s Gospel reading: (Lk 17:11-19). Let us become actors and actresses in this Gospel passage. I am one of the lepers. What about you? Pick a role and let’s dramatize the Gospel. You could be one of the disciples of Christ. Let’s start. Our Lord Jesus Christ is entering a village, between Samaria and Galilee. He is on His way to Jerusalem. We lepers are together at the entrance to this village because we cannot mingle with the rest of society owing to our leprosy, a chronic, severe and infectious condition causing nerve damage and skin lesions. We are disfigured and ugly. We beg just about anyone for food and other necessities. Our leprosy is official. We were examined by local priests and pronounced to be leprous as required by Lev 13:13. We have to shout and keep a distance from the rest of society. So we stay at a distance from Jesus about whom we have heard so much. We raise our voices together and cry out: “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” Then Jesus tells us: “Go show yourselves to the priests.” Well, we obeyed. Maybe Master Jesus has instructed the priests to give us food. Who knows? But on our way, we notice that we were all cleansed. I could not believe I was also cleansed. My hands became clear. The other nine confirmed my face was clear. They too were all cleansed before we got to the priests. Some of us wondered if this was real. Some said they would wait a few days to see if the healing would last. Some of us complained we will not have the thanksgiving offering to give to the priests for rituals that will get us back into society as prescribed in Lev 14. I was planning to go, see the priests and then return to thank Jesus. But then one of us, a Samaritan immediately ran back saying he needed to thank Jesus right away otherwise Jesus might be gone since Jesus was just passing through the village. Well, the nine of us went on and met the priests who confirmed we were cured. After some weeks, I found our Samaritan friend telling so many people about Jesus and the salvation he received from Jesus. He was so full of joy I could not understand.

3. Salvation. I was struggling, trying to catch up on all I lost during my leprosy years. Though I was healed, I was still sad that the leprosy destroyed my life. But this Samaritan surprised me. He was full of happiness and energy. He kept telling everyone that he was not only cured of leprosy but was given salvation by Jesus Christ. I want to be like my Samaritan friend. I’m going to seek out Jesus and thank him for the cure, I hope he will save me as well. I want to do what Naaman did in the first reading (2 Kgs 5:14-17), he returned to thank Prophet Elisha, who rejected Naaman’s gifts. That rejection enabled Naaman to focus on the real healer, the God of Israel, whom Naaman then began worshiping (“I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord”, 2 Kg 5:17), thereby receiving hope of salvation. I want to be like St Paul in the 2nd reading (2 Tm 2:8-13), thankful and faithful even while suffering. Now I have a better grasp of today’s Gospel acclamation (1 Thes 5:18): “In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” Yes, God wills that I be happy, and being thankful in every circumstance guarantees my happiness in every circumstance. Wow.

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