Ingratitude is perhaps the most common of all human failings. Few things are so hurtful as to be taken for granted without a word spoken in thanks, or praise for a job well done. Even if we don’t readily admit it, we all secretly enjoy a pat on the back from time to time. Paying genuine compliments to one another helps to build up community and friendship. But I think what causes most pain is the neglect and the coldness, the antipathy of those for whom we have done our best. Years ago, I remember one of my former Priors going out of his way to tell me off for complimenting the cook on preparing a delicious meal. The Prior turned on me and asked me why I was thanking him, after all, he was only doing his job. It was attitudes like that which led to the collapse of my community. One of the most satisfying experiences in life is to receive a word of praise as a mark of appreciation for a service rendered or a kindness offered. And yet, while we are all ready to deplore the ingratitude of others, we are often unaware of our own ingratitude.
As Our Lord travelled to Jerusalem for the last time in his life, he met deep and amazing ingratitude along the border between Samaria and Galilee. Ten desperate lepers, huddled in their misery, cried out to him for help: “Jesus, master, have pity on us!” Our Lord responded to their prayer immediately, and he cured them all without a moment’s hesitation, and they went off happy and rejoicing because they were cured. When only one leper, and a foreigner at that, thought it worthwhile to return to say thank you, Our Lord expressed genuine disappointment at the attitude of the other nine who stayed away and failed to give thanks to God. Our Lord made the very human and the very moving comment: “Were not ten made clean? Where are the other nine?”
The leper with the grateful heart is an example to us all, because only he among the ten got full benefit from his encounter with Our Lord. By acknowledging the source of his newfound health, his spirit as well as his body was healed. The other nine lacked something in failing to show any appreciation to Our Lord by keeping everything for themselves and giving nothing back. They missed the great richness and the inner joy that comes from gratitude, from giving thanks to God, and for being generous to others. The story reminds us of how often we fail to express thanks to God as the source of all goodness and for all favours received.
The best things in life are appreciated more when they are in danger of being lost. For example, after an encounter with tragedy, we are filled with a sense of gratitude for our life and we feel a new joy in living. The real worth of our love for God flows from our ability to recognise the countless blessings, both great and small, which come our way each day. Coming together to celebrate the Mass each day, or whenever we can, makes it clear that the giving of thanks to God is an essential part of our worship and our prayer life. The more we get on our knees to thank God for his generosity, the more we will be open to receive the joy of his blessings. And since the whole of our existence depends entirely on his Will, we should never let a day pass by without thanking God for the good things of life, and also to thank him for the crosses and the trials that put us to the test, because they are opportunities for us to grow in holiness and in faith.