Reflection for Thursday, November 25, 1999: 34th week in Ordinary Time.
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Meeks, Carolyn Comeaux
Today's readings from the Thanksgiving Day liturgy are all full of gratitude and thanksgiving. Especially the story in Luke's gospel account illustrates gratitude with broad strokes-and with a few particular flourishes that can point us to details in our own lives as well.||Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, passes by both Samaria and Galilee-areas considered "poor, wilder cousins" of the more established Jewish communities of Judah to the south. Galilee, Jesus' own home province, is a bit of an outpost, out of the mainstream. Samaria is even worse, even more marginal, with folks who loosely follow the Mosaic law but are not even considered real Jews.|From this area ten social and medical outcasts-lepers!-meet Jesus from a safe distance and shout for him to have pity on them. Jesus doesn't go out of his way, and doesn't violate the ritual purity laws, to approach them, but responds to "Go and show yourselves to the priests." On their way, from a distance, they notice that they have been made whole. Deformed toes and fingers, noses, mouths, all have regenerated during the course of a walk to the nearest town. One now-former leper, a Samaritan, is overcome with gratitude, and actually reverses his journey (even against Jesus' implied directive to go forward).|This Samaritan is not just grateful; he is ... passionately grateful. "He threw himself on his face at the feet of Jesus and spoke his praises." His obviously emotional outburst-who knows?-may have been against the conventional ways of that time. Perhaps the usual-and-customary way of claiming a healing did not include a provision to even so much as send a thank-you note, let alone reverse course and be effusive in one's thanks. Throwing himself at Jesus' feet may have included some touching-something he was not supposed to do as a leper, but something allowed to a healthy person. How long had it been since he had touched any healthy human being? This newly-healed man takes advantage of his condition to personally see, thank, and perhaps even touch the Lord.|Jesus remarks that this "foreigner" is the only one who has this passion for thankfulness. He wonders aloud where the others are now, the nine non-foreigners whose one strike against them had now been removed. Perhaps the newly-healed wanted to forget, as soon as possible, their prior status as unclean, untouchable, ... .the sooner to be about the new task of assimilating into a culture that earlier rejected them. Who can blame them for going on with their lives?|Frankly, maybe even Jesus wouldn't have "blamed them," had it not been for this somewhat different, wilder Samaritan. His doubly outcast status (a non-Jew, a leper) brought into high relief once again for Jesus that those who don't fit the mold can seem to be more receptive to the gift of God present in Jesus, more alive to His uniqueness, and more passionate in their response of gratitude.|Although it is not the end of a calendar, academic, or fiscal year, it is the end of an agricultural year in the northern hemisphere. The harvest is in. We pause, and we reflect with thanksgiving on the things God has provided through the good earth. On this secular day of feasting and festing, let us remember Whom to thank.|Our national lore on the origins of the first Thanksgiving tell of the confluence of two cultures, of supposedly lesser cousins and of those whose technological advances brought them to a land where they might find some measure of peace from religious persecution.|I am reminded today of cousins, my own and those of the human family. I thank God for the family connections that remain strong across time and space. I am grateful for the sameness of this feast-for the everpresent turkey and pumpkin pie that can be counted on to mark this moment in sacred/secular time. I also thank God for the "wild" cousins and forebears and siblings and friends who have helped me to experience grace in my life even in unexpected places, at the margins of my own self-sufficiency. And on this day I thank God for "foreigners" ("foreigners"?) who reverence God through native ways, and of their part in the great mystery that is life. They have much to teach me. I have much to learn.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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