28th Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year C
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.” When he saw them he said “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.” And he said to the man, “Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.”
The cured leper who turned back to Jesus did so “praising God at the top of his voice”. The other nine who were cured may well have rushed off to tell their family and friends about their miracle. As lepers they would have been separated from their loved ones since the time the disease appeared, which must have been very hard to bear. The “foreigner” may not have had any family or friends to go to with the news of the miracle, and thus turned back to Jesus who had healed him.
Jesus was not looking for thanks from the nine. He wanted them to understand their healing as an experience of the compassion and mercy of God. His focus was on the praise given to God by the Samaritan leper, not on the thanks he was being offered.
When good things happen it is natural to want to share the experience and the joy with people we love. Such a moment also presents a natural opportunity to lift heart and mind to God in the prayer of praise. Praising him can happen in the short space before we are overwhelmed with the desire to share good news with people we love, if praising God is a habit that we have cultivated in our daily lives as a form of prayer.
God honours our efforts to reach out to him, and saints who were in the habit of praising God did not do it only in moments of joy. They saw everything in their lives as coming from God, and were able to praise him even when they faced difficulty or suffering. Their trust in the goodness of God was expressed in their praise. For most of us, praising God in difficult times is not something we naturally do, as we are probably more inclined to moan like Job and ask why God allows bad things to happen to us.
If praising God has become a habit in joyful moments it will eventually also become a prayer in times of difficulty. It is a way of seeing the world that understands that “all things work together for good for those that love God”.
Practise praise and God will do the rest.