One of the lessons we should learn from THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [2 KINGS 5: 14 – 17] is the very simple maxim that you cannot ‘buy’ God and / or his blessings and goodwill towards us {neither should we attempt to ‘bargain’ with him}. No amount of money, patronage of good works, or mechanical / mathematical formulas of devotion can influence the Lord’s favour. TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 17: 11 – 19] makes it clear that the sole sources of God’s response to our petitions is obedience and faith.

Here note that Jesus told the lepers to go and show yourselves to the priests.” They did just that, and as they went they were cleansed.” Yet, the return of the one giving him thanks” elicited from the Lord the fact that while the other nine were cleansed, the faithful one was enabled to go on his way.” Note that “Naaman the Syrian,” who attempted to express his thanksgiving in gifts that were refused, was also empowered to go on his way. Naaman (when we read the story from a few verses earlier) had at first had been disinclined to ‘follow instructions’. {Please God that in our own day the people of Syria will be able to go on their way!}

What needs to be remembered is that in both the cases of Naaman and the one returning leper there was (1) the element of unexpected surprise, and (2) the return to offer thanksgiving. Our Christian God works in mysterious ways according to HIS rules – and thanksgiving is the acknowledgment that HE has ‘done’ it, and nothing we could have ‘given’ has influenced him.

Why does Naaman desire the loads of earth? It is nothing more that a symbol of his newfound faith in Yahweh, the God of Israel and it would be a constant reminder in his pagan homeland of the blessing he had been given. Like the one leper his cleansing was not the most significant thing – GOD WAS, and this both had discovered. Naaman was also able to go on his way.” Too often what the good Lord does for us becomes the principal focus – and the fact that HE did it becomes secondary. Genuine thanksgiving always achieves the correct order of priority.

All this is made very clear by the stanzas of THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [98 or 97]. No mention is made of any specific event or reason for being thankful or rendering praise. In fact, some commentators date this Psalm within a period of disasters and humiliations. Be that as it may, what stands out is the basic need to proclaim God’s goodness and care as central to all endeavours and events. The Lord loves, remembers and will show deliverance. God is always God and this fact, in the face of anything, will never change. This is the reason for us to sing out (our) praise.”

Is this approach merely confined to the Old Testament? Surely not! Look at what Saint Paul proclaims in THIS SUNDAY’S NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [2 TIMOTHY 2: 8 – 13]. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead ….. he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” We need to develop the habit of always remembering – or, rather, calling the facts to mind. Naaman and his load of earth from Yahweh’s land!? He needed to REMEMBER THE FACTS and keep them always clearly in mind. The leper who came back needed to ensure that he facedJesus – he knew he had to remember and keep the Lord clearly in mind. He needed to remember WHO had done it.

“Remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead … he remains faithful.”

The resurrection, among many other things, inserted Jesus Christ into the world itself – into every age, all people, and for all time. HE IS INSERTED INTO MY WORLD AND LIFE! So, there is one further question to be answered. Is it only possible to praise and thank God for the good things with which we are blessed? What about the hardships and disappointments? Well, I remember one particular ‘happening’ in my life which at the time absolutely ‘felled’ me. It took a little while but I slowly – and thankfully – came to realise that it was a real blessing in disguise (at the time, exceptionally well concealed!). It made a quite enormous and significant influence for good and growth in my life and priesthood – and I often give thanks to the Lord for this ‘happening’ – unpleasant and painful as it was at the time. After being able to give thanks I was empowered to go on my way!

It is instructive to recall that after curing another leper {see Matthew 8: 1 – 4} Jesus instructed him to go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering laid down….” The same would have applied to our ten former lepers – and they would have done so. However, only one got his order of priority correct …. first, thanks to HIM who had given it, then the offering. AND the offering was TO THE LORD, not for the gift received.