Daily Reflection
November 15th, 2006

Howie Kalb, S.J.

Jesuit Community
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Memorial of St. Albert the Great
Titus 3:1-7
Psalm 23:1b-3a, 3bc-4, 5, 6
Luke 17:11-19

Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

These questions of Jesus are not really expecting answers. They are simply the expression of his disbelief at the ingratitude of those healed of leprosy through his generosity and miraculous power. It seems to indicate that there is a need in the human heart, (and remember Jesus did have a heart like ours) to know a person’s sacrifice by helping another is appreciated.

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that not to show gratitude by appropriate words, signs or symbols is a sin against justice. Gratitude is not just demanded in charity, but it’s demanded in justice. No wonder Jesus reacted so strongly to the ingratitude of the nine.

Then a question occurred to me. Does Jesus ever say “Thank you” to anyone in the Gospels? Yes, but it would seem only to his Heavenly Father. Before he raised Lazarus from the dead Jesus prayed: “Father, I thank you for having heard me…” (Jn 11:41) At the last Supper the night before Jesus died “…taking bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them saying: ‘This is my body to be given for you.’” (Lk 22:18) Again before Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the 5000, “Taking the seven loaves, he gave thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute…” (Mk 8:6) Since everything belonged to the Father, his only possible response to God was a simple “Thank you!”

But to everyone else who befriended or helped him Jesus didn’t say “thanks”; instead he did something for them to show his gratitude. When Peter allowed Jesus to use his boat as a pulpit, he didn’t say thanks. Instead he provided him with the miraculous draft of fish. When Mary supplied the amenities that Simon failed to offer, Jesus said her act of kindness would be retold till the end of time. And when the Canaanite woman responded to his request for a cup of water, Jesus gave her water springing up to eternal life, the gift of faith.

When someone thanks us we know how it makes us feel satisfied, sometimes even needed. It bonds people together making us realize that we are our neighbor’s keeper. Whereas ingratitude breeds ingratitude. When people react in an ungrateful way, it distances people one from another making them feel superfluous, perhaps even a nuisance or menace.

Following Jesus’ example is the path to holiness and eternal life. So being ever ready to express gratitude by deeds, or at least words of thanks, should be our spontaneous response to every act of help or kindness shown to us.

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