On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "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 made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."
To be a leper in the time of Jesus meant more than just having an unfortunate skin condition. It meant being seen as "unclean" by the majority of society, and thus unable to participate in everyday things like going to the market or even being present at the temple. They were outsiders, outcasts in society. When the 10 approached Jesus and he told them to go show themselves to the priests, that was an invitation to re-enter society. Once the priests saw and certified that they were clean they would be allowed amongst people again.
The one leper who was also a Samaritan would have been a "double outsider" as one author put it - on the margins of society not only because of their health status but because of their ethnicity. Yet this is the only one of the ten who returned to Jesus, to give thanks to God for healing. Once again a story of Jesus shows us that this new kingdom of God he brings goes beyond our human boundaries, it transcends the divisions we make amongst ourselves.
An important part of participation in this new kingdom of God is gratitude. I read something recently that has stuck with me and will be transformative in my life going forward. The idea was that gratitude should not only be seen as a response, but as a discipline. In other words, yes, we are grateful when something good happens to us or something hoped for comes to pass. But we should also be grateful every single day, for in every day there is something to be grateful for if only we look for it. If we develop gratitude as a discipline it will also come more naturally as a response.
In this story, we see gratitude practiced as a response to something - the leper has been healed so he returns to Jesus to give thanks for this miracle. Yet I'd like to think that this one leper does so because he has gratitude as a discipline in his life. The other nine can't even bring themselves to practice gratitude as a response - to probably one of the best things to ever happen to them! - because they have never practiced it, and it simply doesn't occur to them.
May we begin to practice gratitude not just as a response to the obvious, overwhelmingly good things in our lives, but as a discipline we practice every day. When we practice gratitude I believe we will more readily see things to be grateful for, which means we will more readily see and participate in the kingdom of God.
God of all things to be grateful for, help us to bring this new discipline into our lives. Open our eyes that we may see your blessings that surround us daily and the ways the kingdom calls us to bring about its being. In Jesus' name, Amen.