At that time, as Jesus entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said: "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus's feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus: "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him: "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well" (Luke 17:12-19).
A lot of times we pray for certain things in our lives and God grants us the things we prayed for. The problem though is not whether He blesses us or not. We are all blessed one way or another. For example, being able to walk, to breathe, to use our intellect, our ears, our eyes, having a family, having everything essential to survive; these are all gifts from God. Unfortunately, we often realise their value as soon as they are taken from us or when we lose them. Only then do we appreciate what we had. So, before losing something it would be wise to thank God for everything we have as well as for whatever we don’t have. There is also a reason behind not having something.
It is very impressive that Jesus asked all ten lepers before they were healed to go to the priests to verify their cure. They were cured on the way there. On the way to the city. And all ten of them had obedience and enough faith to start their walking trip being still sick. So, they were healed on the way because of their obedience and faith in Christ. Jesus said to the one that returned and only to him: “your faith has made you well". The nine received the cure of their bodies but the tenth received his spiritual healing as well. And that’s something the other nine never even thought about and missed out on. Therefore, it is worth realising that if we are not grateful, if we do not give thanks to God for everything He gives us, we will miss out on things way greater than what we have already received, and we won’t even know about it. And it is even worse if we have promised something to God of our own will: a piece of land for the mission, or for an orphanage, or to sell something we possess and support a monastery etc., and we forgot all about it because the conditions of our lives have improved and we moved on. This usually happens when our conditions improve. Then we forget to return and say: “Thank you my God”. What is it that we really do? We grab His gifts and run! We go away from Him! Instead of turning in the direction of our Gift giver God, we turn towards ourselves and the gifts we received! We make our gift our god! We deify our health, our partner, our success and we end up idolaters. And of course, the fathers of the church advise us not to promise anything to God before discussing it with our spiritual father.
We should mention one more thing. During the Divine Liturgy the priest says to God in a prayer: “For all these things we give thanks to You and Your Only- begotten Son and Your Holt Spirit, and for all the benefits known and unknown, seen and unseen, that have been granted to us” (Prayer of the Holy Anaphora, The Divine Liturgy, St Andrew’s Orthodox Press, Sydney 2005, p.71). So, when we realise His benefits to us we ought to thank Him. But also when we don’t realise and when we believe that we didn’t receive, we still ought to thank Him, because not receiving is also a benefit. We could have received and focus on ourselves, make ourselves gods and lose our soul. And we could have not received and the pain and sense of not receiving could help us stay focused on prayer, focused on God.
Our Gospel says that Jesus entered a village. He was met by ten lepers. They asked Him for help and He healed them all. But although all ten were cleansed, only one returned to praise God. It would be good if we could think about this event and ask ourselves which category we belong to. To the category of the nine or of the one who returned to give thanks to Jesus. Because the gratefulness of this one Jesus Himself called: “praise of God”. And praising God is par excellence an act of the Holy Angels.
These writings have been translated and re-produced from the talks given between from the fathers of the
Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint John in Perth, Western Australia.