Certain Gospel readings bring to mind particular days.
The Gospel about the birth of Jesus makes us think of Christmas Day.
The Gospel about Jesus being tempted in the desert recalls the 40 days of Lent.
The Gospel reading about Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb reminds us of the day that the Lord rose from the grave.
This Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 17:11-19) about the cure of the ten men with leprosy is also associated with a certain day, namely, Thanksgiving Day.
That Gospel is usually the one that we hear as we gather for Mass on the fourth Thursday in November. In that Gospel we hear of ten people wonderfully blessed with healing, but only one returns to Jesus to give thanks for that marvelous blessing. The other nine seemingly take the blessing for granted and move on with their lives.
When we hear that Gospel on Thanksgiving Day, it reminds us that we are to imitate that grateful Samaritan, we are to be people who give thanks to God for our blessings large and small – blessings that range from the wondrous gift of life to the enjoyment of a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter evening.
As the priest reminds us at every Mass, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” And we acknowledge, “It is right and just.”
However, in this Sunday’s Gospel we learn of another blessing that was given, not to all ten men, but only to the Samaritan. Not only was he given the gift of physical healing, he was also given the gift of faith. We are told that the Samaritan “returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.”
The Samaritan acknowledged that God’s saving power was present in the one who had healed him. In response to that act of worship, Jesus responded, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."
We might say that the Samaritan was saved not just from leprosy, as were the other nine, but also from the power of sin. He was truly raised up.
We see the same thing in Sunday’s First Reading. There Naaman, the Aramean army commander who was afflicted with leprosy, is not only cured through the intercession of Elisha the prophet but also brought to faith. After his healing, Naaman proclaims, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”
The Samaritan might have been able to say something similar. “Now I am certain that the saving power of God is present in Jesus.”
When we hear Sunday’s Gospel on Thanksgiving Day, we hear it as a reminder that we are to give God thanks and praise for all the material blessings that we have received.
As we hear the Gospel this Sunday, we might hear it as a reminder to give thanks for the gift of faith that we share with the Samaritan and Naaman.
Like them we have the faith that enables us to recognize the presence of God in our world and in our lives. For that, “Let us give thanks to our Lord our God!”
2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski