“Faith: The Key to a Real Thanksgiving”, by Fr. Joel Sulse, OFM

St. Paul in his letter to Timothy tells us that God will never deny us, and He remains faithful no matter how unfaithful we are as human persons. Therefore, let it be an encouragement for all of us on how we can follow the spirit of God.

“Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God? Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you!” (v.18-19) I always remember this text because it reminds me of one of the advices I often received from my parents:” Be thankful to God for whatever may come along your way…” Thinking of he same advice as I was growing up, it dawned on me that it has a deeper meaning which I was not aware of. But finally making the same as my mantra, I discovered that the advice my parents told me is to “put my full trust and faith in God in everything I do and live.” I believe that the spirit hidden behind this is the faith that Jesus is reminding us of in our gospel text: “Stand up and go. Your faith has saved you!”

For years, I have kept the same in my heart. Even in moments of personal difficulties and trials, I always thank God for the same. It may seem abnormal but it makes me feel lighter anyway. And it helped me a lot actually. I always remember the words of Scott Peck about delaying gratification. I believe that it is the faith that we put into something that makes us become more patient in life. It helps us recognize the real value of self-giving, and the authentic value of Christian sacrifice.

Looking deeply into the spirit of the text, one can find that it is not only about good breeding. It is not only about sending “thank you notes” as one writer suffices. It is more than showing one’s gratitude for a favor given. True, the texts have very rich themes and they provide rich tones of conversion as well. Previous to this narrative is the reminder of Jesus to his disciples not to be a stumbling block to others, and to forgive repentant persons as many times as possible. When they asked Him to “increase their faith”, he advised them to learn from the mustard seed. The point here is, Jesus has offered to them as a model the Samaritan leper, a foreigner, one who doesn’t belong to the Jewish circle. The leper was singled out by Jesus for commendation because he went beyond his physical healing. He went back to Jesus because the leper knew very well that without Jesus’ divine power, he cannot be healed. The beautiful part in this scene however is the humanized divine spirit coming from Jesus himself which was given as a gift but affirmed to be coming from within the person- “YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU!”

The dramatic healing that transpired reminds us of our capacity as human beings to become healers ourselves. When we deviate therefore from this scenario, we allow ourselves to be released or imprisoned from the possible divine nature that is in us. Again, we have to remind ourselves that we have been created in God’s image and likeness. And this scenario of the story between Jesus and the healed leper is a timeless challenge on how we can maintain a spiritual composure in accord to God’s divine will and nature. So let us be possessed therefore by this beautiful “spiritual keepsake” coming from Jesus himself.

The presence of the nine lepers in the gospel may not be an issue about the “Jewishness” of Jesus’ question having singled out the Samaritan leper. It is about the absence or lack of gratitude to God, and their failure to praise Him. Which camp do we belong to? We are reminded that we who received healing from God should follow the ways of the faithful leper. If we believe that we have been restored to the very image of Christ, we should therefore go back to God consistently, and keep the faith that He has gratuitously given us. Through this faith, we can open more possibilities in enveloping our world with that “deep gratitude” coming from God.

Our first reading tells us of the story of the gratitude Naaman gave back to God. He acknowledged Him as the one who healed him from his leprosy. Of course, he was very thankful to Elisha for the instructions given him on how he can be healed. He was thankful also to Elisha. But both of them gave back to God their complete gratitude. The responsibility on how we can give back our deep gratitude to God lies on the faith that He has given us. St. Paul in his letter to Timothy tells us that God will never deny us, and He remains faithful no matter how unfaithful we are as human persons. Therefore, let it be an encouragement for all of us on how we can follow the spirit of God. The alleluia verse summarized it: “In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

As we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Sunday, I was reminded by my experience with the Agtas in Aurora. One time we were hiking with them going to their village. On our way, we experienced hunger. We passed by a guava tree bowing to the grounds with ripe fruits. We were so excited to pick the fruits with our mouths juicing with excitement. Suddenly, the tribal leader told us: “Ay bago magpitas, tayo ay magpasalamat kay Makidyapet!” (Before we pick the fruits, let us offer our thanksgiving to Makidyapet (their God and our God too)!” We were all dumbfounded!

as published on October 13, 2013, Parish Bulletin
About Fr. Joel and his reflections

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