One out of ten lepers was grateful to Jesus. That’s not a poll, but a reflection of the human condition taken from this Sunday’s gospel reading (Lk 17:11-19). Jesus was approached by ten lepers, begging him for pity and a cure. He gave both to all ten, but only one—upon realizing his skin was healthy—came back to thank God.
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?” Jesus asked him. “Where are the other nine? … “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
We would do well to follow up on Jesus’ question and ask, what happened to the other nine? Well, like all of us will, they eventually died, nice skin and all. Their celebration after the cure was probably short lived too. Without a grateful heart, memory fades quickly. Decades later, St. Paul would remind the Romans (Romans 1:21) not to be typical humans who take God for granted and bathe themselves in stolen glory …
… for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools.
Fools lack grateful hearts because they don’t trust in something greater than themselves. By trusting only in themselves, gratitude dies with them. By trusting in the eternity of Jesus, our gratitude can live forever. In Sunday’s second reading, from Paul’s letter to Timothy (2 Tm 2:8-13), Paul explains:
If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us.
Like Naaman, the leper cured through the prophet Elisha in our first reading (2 Kgs 5:14-17), Jesus’ leper not only offered a celebration of gratitude to God for curing his body, but for filling him with hope for a cured spirit as well. His journey back to thank Jesus was a walk of hope that is all too rare in this modern era where our trust is completely invested in science at the cost of our ability to believe in miracles.
So imagine a walk of hope powered by the grateful hearts of “disabled” adults who find the grace of God by gathering together every week to help each other sharpen their abilities. That walk took place last Saturday, as it does every October, in the Cleveland neighborhood of Tremont, during the Annual Catholic Charities Walk of Hope.
This event raises funds to support Catholic Charities disability services and ministries, one of which is the weekly Saturday program where the dignity of continuing education and mutual support are shared. All people hope to develop their potential to the fullest. For those with disabilities, such hope can be fragile without the grace that comes from spiritual communion with others. This opportunity leads to mutual trust and a grateful heart.
An ungrateful heart is a forgetful heart. Through the mistake of those nine forgetful people whose bodies Jesus transformed, we realize that those who forget their mistakes are destined to repeat them. This causes self-inflicted infirmities such as pride and ignorance—which tend to enhance each other over time and degrade the spirit.
The greatest miracles that happen regularly in our lives, such as those that happen regularly in Tremont through the Catholic Charities Saturday program, are more revelatory than transformative. Gratitude frees the souls of those who return to gather together, share their gratitude and reveal what God intended them to be: His children.