Wednesday: 14 November, 2012 –– 33rd Week in Ordinary Time
Titus 3:1–7 / Luke 17:11–19
This story in the Gospel raises the issue of thankfulness. Ten lepers were healed by Jesus; only one returned to give thanks –– and he was an “outsider” (a Samaritan, a “foreigner” in Jewish opinion).
The more highly we think of ourselves, the more difficult it is to practice thankfulness. To use the illustration in the letter of St James (2:1–4), if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes is shown some public deference, it is easy for him to assume it is his due. On the other hand, if a poor person in shabby clothes is given some open kindness, he is likely to feel he has been noticed and valued in spite of his appearance, and will more likely say “thank you.” Back when I was associate pastor at the Messiah College Campus Church, I was one day given the task of accompanying a prominent visiting speaker to his various engagements. He wanted to be driven everywhere (it’s a walking campus), and he had a list of expectations that unfolded throughout the day. I found it increasingly difficult to listen to his presentations. If we have an attitude that believes we “deserve” blessings and do not “deserve” hardships, then we will be presumptuous about the good things in our lives and we will focus on all the things we find uncomfortable and inconvenient. People who do that are miserable (and so are those around them).
We live in a society that encourages us to embrace the idea that we deserve good things. Our cultural values have become increasingly twisted, seeking to find blame for situations that are unpleasant. There is a growing entitlement mentality which all but demands comfort and convenience.
The root of Christian Faith is a recognition of what we deserve –– and it’s not good. The reading from Titus is quite explicit: we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another....
There is one reason we are not left in hopeless despair: when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us.... If we truly comprehend and believe this, how can we not live every day in utter gratitude?
And that is not mere concept. Notice how St Paul tells Titus to behave as the reading begins: to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness.... Why? For we ourselves were once foolish.... In these post election days, we followers of Jesus would do well to think about who we are apart from mercy.... and to be thankful that the grace of God is not limited by any circumstances. Be thankful, and so glorify God.