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January 20, 2008

12th Sunday in LukeFrgeorge

"Were not all the 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine?" Luke 17:17

We can easily sense the disappointment of our Lord, having cured the 10 Lepers, and seeing only one returning to thank Him, for his being healed.

The inexplicable thing is, that the nine, who didn't return were Hebrews, whereas, the one that did return was a Samaritan, and we know that there was a wide gap between the Hebrews and the Samaritans. In fact, it was a sin for a Hebrew to be caught speaking to a Samaritan.

The Miracle of the healing of the 10 Lepers is a simple story, but it reflects greatly on the society of all the ages, when people choose to be ungrateful. The lack of gratitude is unforgivable, especially for a Christian.

Just imagine if you can, the great curse of leprosy! The body just seems to waste away, sending forth an unbearable stench. However, with the modern discoveries of medicines, leprosy is somewhat under control in civilized countries, but is rampant in places like Africa.

Imagine though in the Lord's time. According to Jewish law, the lepers were cast out of the cities, and to be distant from all other humans. To be sure most must have seen their loved ones from afar, who came, deposited the food without any contact and departed.
Thus, they were condemned, let us say, yo an outdoor prison, with no contact, and to await their eventual death.

One day, the Lord was passing through a city in Palestine, and in a remote area, he heard agonizing pleas: "Lord Jesus, have mercy on us." The Lord approached them, and told them, that according to the Jewish law, they were supposed to go, and show themselves to the priests, in order to receive their clean bill of health.

As they left the remote area journeying toward the Temple they personally felt and saw their fellow lepers having been cured, having normal bodies. One can imagine their indescribable joy, witnessing their healing. But, what was the result? Instead of them all as a group returning to express their gratitude to Jesus, only one, as we mentioned, returned, and he was a Samaritan! Seeing Jesus, he fell before His feet, and thanked Him profusely for his healing.

It was then, that the Lord asked the Samaritan: "Were not all the 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine? Should they have not returned to give praise to God, except for this Foreigner?" He then said to him: "Rise, and go; your faith has made you whole."

How sadly the Lord must have felt witnessing this gross ingratitude. The same sadness that we too must have felt at some point in our life, when the person we benefacted didn't have the common decency to return and say "thank you."

I am reminded of the Biblical verse, which states: "instead of giving us manna, they gave us bile to drink!" I am sure that each of us, can relate stories and incidents of ingratitude.

How many times I have heard, as well as my personal involvement, when we helped people, and even friends in certain situations; and instead of hearing a "thank you," we ended up on the short end of the stick, as the saying goes. It is like the story, of a person who came across a small snake, which was hibernating. He picked it up and he placed it under his arm pit to warm it, and bring it to life. It was revived, and immediately sunk its fangs into the person that took pity on it.

The reality is, that we are deeply saddened, when we suffer the ingratitude of a person, whom we trusted and helped in various ways. And of course, it is well within reason to ask ourselves, if we personally have always expressed our gratitude, when the occasion calls for it. And if we express our gratitude to our fellow humans, do we also express this to Lord, our God? There is no doubt, that unconsciously, we do take for granted the blessings given to us by God. We are prone to complain for the things we suffer, but we so often neglect to count our blessings.

There may be times when we remark and condemn others, witnessing their ingratitude, when we ourselves, are oftentimes guilty.

How many examples can be cited of classical ingratitude, as in the case of Judas, who had a privileged place in the college of the Disciples; who witnessed nothing but love, caring and kindness, but yet, he betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver!

In Roman history we learned of the stabbing of the Emperor Julius Caesar. It is something any leader can expect, but Caesar, in suffering the multiple stabbings, felt the pain mainly, when he saw his closest friend, Brutus, part of the group, that wanted him dead. Since that time, the classical phrase has remained: "And you too Brutus?"

It is significant to read the 2nd verse of the 1St Chapter of Isaiah's prophetic book, when God speaks: "Hear, O Heavens! Listen, O Earth! I reared children, and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me!" Are these words merely a prophecy? Indeed not. These words a grim reality, are dipped into the bile of ingratitude. Perhaps, basing his thoughts on these prophetic words, the writer Alfred Tennyson wrote: "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is, to have a thankless child!"

If these examples and so many similar ones are true regarding us humans, what could God say, when we perhaps do not show ingratitude, we simply express to Him a minimal conventional gratitude. In the din of today's world, we must take time to pause and seriously think of the many things we take for granted, and also to free ourselves from the thought, that we owe nothing to anyone, because we worked and sweated to amass our goods. Unfortunately too many Christians live their life remotely from the sensitivity of the blessings of God.

That is why the Church will always emphasize the Biblical truths, which are a light, to lighten our path in life, to ultimately lead us to our salvation! The Bible is our guiding lamp, as the Prophet David mentions in Psalm 118, verse 105, "Your word O Lord is a lamp unto my feet, and a light for my path."

When we give essence and substance to the verses of the Bible, which we hear and read, we shall live our life according to St. Paul's 18th verse of the 5th Chapter of his 1St Epistle to the Thessalonians: "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God, in Christ Jesus."

As in all expressions, we as Christians are masters over ourselves. People can imitate the Samaritan, who returned to give thanks, or they can be classified with the ungrateful nine, who while having received their greatest gift, neglected their due obligation. People have to become more conscious of their religion, not only as knowledge, but as a way of life, so that they never run the risk of hearing those words of condemnation: "were not all the ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?" Amen.
+ Fr. George Papadeas

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“Therefore brethren stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word or our epistle.” - Thessalonians 2:15

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