St Luke 17: 11 – 19
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
Monty Python’s Life of Brian had a similar episode where Brian was asked “alms for an ex-leper.” Brian, puzzled, discovered that Jesus had healed the leper who then considered himself deprived of his ability to make money. Brian muttered, “there’s no helping some people” and the ex-leper responded “that’s what Jesus said!” Truth is often stranger than fiction.
There’s a wry humour in today’s passage as we realise that people are often ungrateful for what is done for them. Only one of the lepers comes back to thank Jesus and, of course, that one was a religious and social outsider. A lesson for the Jewish onlookers to see, again, that a Samaritan is the hero and they are the villains in the story.
Lest we become too smug, how often do we show gratitude for the good things that happen to us? How often do we show gratitude to God? Who do we identify with in the passage? The nine ungrateful lepers? The Samaritan leper? Or Jesus, as we’re often not thanked for what we do for others? Does our ingratitude lead us to take things for granted. Does the ingratitude of others lead us to resentment and bitterness? Does our attitude of gratitude keep us grounded?
We can choose how we respond – with gratitude, resentment, bitterness, or indifference. Our response, however, will colour our life and our attitudes just as it coloured the ex-leper in The Life of Brian and the lepers in today’s story.
God of healing,
help us to thank you for all you’ve done for us,
for the loving kindness you shower upon us,
for friends, family, and strangers who undertake random kind acts.
Help us to have an attitude of gratitude,
to counter the bitterness and resentment that can so easily build up,
that, as we give thanks, we become more generous,
for your Name’s sake, Amen.