Wednesday (November 15):  "He fell at Jesus' feet giving thanks"

Meditation: What can adversity teach us about the blessing of thanksgiving and the healing power of love and mercy? The Book of Proverbs states: A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). When adversity strikes you find out who truly is your brother, sister, and friend. The Gospel records an unusual encounter between two peoples who had been divided for centuries. The Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with one another even though Samaria was located in the central part of Judaea. Both peoples were openly hostile whenever their paths crossed. In this Gospel narrative we see one rare exception - a Samaritan leper in company with nine Jewish lepers. Sometimes adversity forces people to drop their barriers or to forget their prejudices. When this band of Jewish and Samaritan lepers saw Jesus they made a bold request. They didn't ask for healing, but instead asked for mercy.

Mercy is heartfelt sorrow at another's misfortune
The word mercy literally means "sorrowful at heart". But mercy is something more than compassion, or heartfelt sorrow at another's misery and misfortune. Compassion empathizes with the sufferer. But mercy goes further - it removes suffering. A merciful person shares in another's misfortune and suffering as if it were his or her own. And such a person will do everything in his or her power to dispel that misery.

Mercy is also connected with justice. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a great teacher and scripture scholar, said that mercy "does not destroy justice, but is a certain kind of fulfillment of justice. ..Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; (and) justice without mercy is cruelty." Mercy.."moves us to do what we can do to help the other." Mercy seeks to remedy the weakness of others, and where sin is involved to lead others to recognize their need for repentance and turning away from wrongdoing. Pardon without repentance negates justice.

God's mercy brings healing of mind, heart, and body
So what is the significance of these ten lepers asking Jesus to show them mercy? They know they are in need of healing, not just physical, but spiritual healing as well. They approach Jesus with faith and with sorrow for their sins because they believe that he can release the burden of their guilt and suffering and restore both soul and body. Their request for mercy is both a plea for pardon and release from suffering. Jesus gives mercy to all who ask with faith and contrition (true sorrow for sin).

Why did only one leper out of ten return to show gratitude? Gratefulness, a word which expresses gratitude of heart and a thankful disposition, is related to grace - which means the release of loveliness. Gratitude is the homage of the heart which responds with graciousness in expressing an act of thanksgiving. The Samaritan approached Jesus reverently and gave praise to God.

Ingratitude leads to lack of love and kindness, and intolerance towards others
If we do not recognize and appreciate the mercy and help shown to us, we will be ungrateful and unkind towards others. Ingratitude is forgetfulness or a poor return for kindness received. Ingratitude easily leads to lack of charity and intolerance towards others, as well as to other vices, such as complaining, grumbling, discontentment, pride, and presumption. How often have we been ungrateful to our parents, pastors, teachers, and neighbors? Do you express gratitude to God for his abundant help and mercy towards you and are you gracious, kind, and merciful towards your neighbor in their time of need and support?

"Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your loving kindness and mercy. Fill my heart with compassion and thanksgiving, and free me from ingratitude and discontentment. Help me to count my blessings with a grateful heart and to give thanks in all circumstances."


This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/