12th Sunday of Luke - The attitude of ingratitude
One of the greatest paradoxes of today's society is the fact that people are looking for instant gratification for everything they do, yet it is very seldom that they are giving the proper gratitude for the many blessings they receive in life.
It is customary in the United States to send thank you cards to the people that give us gifts. Care is taken to write the notes by hand, to describe in details the gift qualities and even describe how they are going to use it and cherish it forever. And people do this for a toaster, for a pair of socks or a remote control toy car; Trivial things that we can spare without any existential problem.
How many people however express their gratitude for the things in their lives that we take for granted: good health, a safe neighborhood, a bank account, a soft bed and so on. We take these things for granted but others are forced to live daily without them. Ask a cancer patient about his health, ask a kid from the slums of Sao Paolo about his safe neighborhood, ask a recent Mexican immigrant about his bank account or a homeless person about his soft bed. They would definitely appreciate them.
We see in today's Gospel 10 lepers, an incurable disease at the time, but more than this, a disease that would exclude the lepers from the community, condemning them to a life in isolation, far away from the life of the city or village.
Leprosy may very well represent the disease we call in theological terms sin; a disease that marks our beings and eats our flesh and takes us away from the communion with the City of God, the Church. Through sin we loose communion with God and only then we realize what we have lost: His love, His attention, His providential care. When we sin we are alone, far from the mainstream of Christian attitude, far from the teachings of Jesus Christ, Far from being on the way of the Cross He opened for us.
The only way a leper could be cured in those times was through an act of grace, a miracle. This is why they implore Christ, a known healer of the time to grant them health. His answer is a bit puzzling, because instead of curing them He sends them to the priests. Why?
The Law was prescribing that the only persons that could certify healing form leprosy were the Jewish priests. They were the only ones that could receive them back into the community. However they were able to cure them. They could only testify a cure.
If leprosy is sin again as we saw, we realize the limitations of the priesthood of the Old Testament, which was full of rituals and symbols, but could not grant salvation. Christ brought in the world a new type of priesthood, that has the power of the true healing, the forgiveness of sins. The only drug that can cure the disease, not just alleviate the pain. "Of whomever sins you remit, they are remitted to them. Of whomever sins you retain, they are retained." (Joh 20:23)
This is the Sacrament of Confession that grants remission of sins and more than this, allows the penitent to re-enter into communion with the Church. Many times Confession is mistaken for a senseless enumeration of trivial sins, but is actually more than this. Sin as we saw is cutting our links with the Church, makes us miss the target of salvation. Confession brings us back on the right path, reintegrates us as full members of in the Church, passengers of the Ark of Salvation. This is why Confession is called the second Baptism, because it gives us a second chance to start anew, with a clean slate.
One condition though is essential: to strive not to repeat the sins. Because in doing so we repeat the attitude of the nine lepers that after being healed today they turn their back to their Benefactor and leave without a simple thank you.
Why they did this? Because of pride; pride is the grand mother of ingratitude. A proud person will never have received enough because it will always believe it deserves more. Same with the lepers today, they were cured and the miracle itself made them forget about gratitude and their Helper. It happens to many people. They come to Church in great problems and they pray from their whole heart, sincerely and eventually they get what they ask for. But most of the times they turn their backs to God once their life goes back to normal. They forget to write their Thank you notes to God. I deserved it, I am a Christian, lived a good life God's has to give me what I ask.
But St. Peter of Damaskos says that „...he who has received a gift from God, and is ungrateful for it, is already on the way to losing it..." This is the way of the nine lepers. Healed, but ungrateful, leaving the communion with the Physician of their souls and bodies; turning toward the mundane pleasures of the life in the earthly city forgetting already the miracle above nature that just happened to them. And in doing so, they loose their way, they get lost in the jungle of the secular world, certainly to be eaten by the beast that devours souls.
We should learn from this an important lesson: don't take anything for granted in life. Miracles, even the daily ones, happen with a reason, to help us find the way to God. To be a testimony for the continuous presence of God in His creation, for His providence that governs the world toward a better finish line. But it is up to us to recognize and embrace the message behind the facts.
If we follow the path of the tenth leper the leprosy of sin will be cured by the Lord forever. We have the Tools, the Sacraments: Holy Confession, Holy Unction and above all Holy Communion. Let's use them for the benefits of our souls. It is not enough to have the tools stored in the garage; we need to use them to build something. We'll be hesitant at the beginning, it is a learning curve, but we will learn to skillfully use them to build the most important thing in the world: our salvation, granted to us through the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, together worshipped with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amin.
 Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 187