Friday, 20 June 2014

Thank you. Really.

Thank you for taking a moment to read this.

The Gospel of Luke records a story in which Jesus meets ten lepers who call out to him for mercy.  He tells them to go and see the priests at the temple and on their way they're "made clean."  One of them, realizing he's healed, turns back and thanks Jesus.  Wondering out loud what happened to the others and pointing out that this man wasn't even a Jew, Jesus receives his thanks and tells him to "get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). 

It's a classic story of Jesus doing what Jesus does, offering healing to the sick and restoration to the marginalized.  But there's this twist: Jesus heals many, but only one expresses thanks.

That's not to say that the others weren't grateful or that they did anything wrong.  First of all, they did what Jesus said, they went to see the priests.  Second, they were probably so excited to be healed that they wanted to show their families and friends and resume their place in society, the place that was lost to them when they became lepers.  See, they are healed and restored (we hope, it doesn't really say), just as Jesus so often does in these healing stories.

But healed and restored are not enough for the tenth man.  He needs to acknowledge the gift of new life given to him.  Sure, he might have been raised by very well-mannered parents who taught him to always say please and thank you, just to be polite.  But wouldn't that be just the opposite of Jesus, who taught that the action was meaningless without the connection to the heart?

No, I think there's more.  In the man's thanks is the faith that he was offering that thanks at the source, connecting with God through Jesus.  His faith makes him more than just "well," it makes him whole, in body, mind and spirit.

Saying thank you, when offered from the heart, does that.  It opens us to relationship with others, acknowledging that we accept, appreciate and embrace their gift, no matter what that gift may be, opening our hearts to theirs.  It's more than politeness, it's wholeness.