Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
LET US GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as He 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’ 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
Good morning Prayer Team!
The “classic” story, if you will, about thanksgiving in the New Testament, is the story of the Ten Lepers as told in the Gospel of Luke. Leprosy was a very painful disease. It was also very contagious. Lepers were quarantined from the rest of society, and lived among other lepers in leper colonies. People either scorned them or were scared of them. The only way to be judged “cured” of leprosy was to be inspected by the priests, who were generally unsympathetic to the struggles of the lepers.
The lepers asked Jesus to heal them. They saw Jesus. They made this specific request from Him. They didn’t ask anyone else for healing, only Him. He told them to go show themselves to the priests, for inspection. Jesus didn’t provide instant healing for them, but told them to go show themselves to the priests.
Here is where we have to give the lepers some credit. They trusted Jesus enough to go to the priests, even though they weren’t healed. On the journey, they were healed. All ten must have realized at some point that they were healed. Most certainly all were grateful to be healed. Most certainly they knew the healing had to have come from Jesus. After all, they didn’t ask anyone else. Yet, only one of them came back to Jesus with a thankful heart. And that one was a Samaritan, a sworn enemy of the Jews, like Jesus.
In many ways, we are like the lepers. Everyone has something that afflicts them. It is Christ who provides healing and comfort and strength to deal with our infirmities. Rarely does healing occur in one “lightning bolt” moment. Healing is gradual, over time. I look back at my life and the major obstacles I’ve overcome. Each was overcome over a period of time. I now understand that each was overcome with God’s help as well.
So, we are healed gradually, like the lepers. Everyone is grateful for healing. None of us is angry or ungrateful. Just like all the lepers were grateful. However, as we have been studying, gratitude and thanksgiving are two different things. Gratitude is an inward feeling of joy. Thanksgiving is gratitude in action. Nine lepers were grateful. Only one was thankful. One returned to God in thanksgiving. One was ready to turn his gratitude into action, glorifying God for the great gift he had received.
God works in many small, subtle ways in our lives. Do we recognize the small blessings that “gradually” come upon us? Do we go back to God in thanksgiving for them? One goal of life is to make thanksgiving a habit, going back to God with a thankful heart for the gradual healing, for the blessings large and small that we all enjoy.
Lord, thank You for the many blessings large and small that You give to me. Thank You for the times that healing of my ills is immediate. Thank You for the times the healing has been gradual . Give me patience to wait for healing. Give me a thankful heart that always remembers that blessings and healing come from You. Give me a heart that is motivated to glorify You each day, in ways large and small. Thank You for loving me as I am. Help me to become more and more like You. Amen.
Put thankfulness into an action that brings glory to God today!
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