The Gospel reading this week, Luke 17: 11-19, is the story of how Jesus was appealed to by ten lepers. Jesus sent them to the local priests and the lepers were ‘made clean’. Only one of the ten – and that one being a foreigner from the enemy land of Samaria – bothered to come back to thank Jesus. The bit that has always struck me out of this reading is the final line: Jesus says, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Is Jesus confirming here that the Samaritan was made clean because he trusted in Jesus and obeyed his instruction to go to the priest? The passage suggests this was true of the other nine lepers also. What made the Samaritan special was his thankfulness.
We are living through a period of considerable anxiety about cost of living, and difficult choices to make ends meet; a time when support services like food banks are facing such levels of demand that they are struggling to provide; when there are increasing concerns about health and wellbeing.
As we seek ways to tackle these issues and to improve wellbeing, there is a growing body of research which shows that intentionally being thankful, practising gratitude, has a remarkable impact on our health and resilience.[i] Taking time to identify something each day for which we can be thankful helps to stimulate happiness and increases our ability to recognise positives. Thankfulness helps us to appreciate ‘the other’, what is larger than ourselves … God. This is not to say that the problems of our world will vanish, but that in giving thanks, we are lifted up and supported through the problems.
So, back to the Samaritan. When Jesus said, “your faith has made you well”, I wonder did the Samaritan’s recognition of Jesus’ gift to him and his thankfulness for this do much more than simply cure him of leprosy? Perhaps the Samaritan’s faith and attitude of gratitude so enhanced his physical and spiritual wellbeing that he was able to go forward in life a more positive and healthier person, better equipped to discover God at work in the world around him. At this harvest season and in the coming year, may we too walk in this thankfulness.
A poem by Mizuno Genzo [ii]
I can do nothing
for my family
or the Lord.
For the abundant love
of the Lord
of my family
I just give thanks
just give thanks.
Image copyright free, with thanks to St Andrew’s Lutheran Church.
[i] See, for example, https://research.com/education/scientific-benefits-of-gratitude#
[ii] Genzo, in The Lion Treasury of Children’s Prayers, p61