Learning Gratitude

Monday, Oct 7th, 2013

            I have heard gratitude described as “the index of spiritual health.”  Those who forget to be grateful—whether because they feel entitled or unworthy—are missing an essential practice.

            The Gospel lesson from Luke 17 narrates Jesus’ encounter with the ten lepers as he was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.  The lepers followed the prescribed protocol: they kept their distance and verbally acknowledged their condition.  “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Healing lepers

            Jesus instructed them to go and show themselves to the priests, which meant an “authorized” announcement of healing could be made.  The faith of the lepers was sufficient to follow his instruction, and “as they went, they were made clean” (v. 14).

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.  He prostrated    himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan (vv. 15-16).

Jesus questioned the absence of the other nine, their seeming lack of gratitude.  “This foreigner,” however, displayed exemplary faith, according to the Healing One.

            One wonders what tone of voice Luke was trying to convey.  Was Jesus merely miffed or clearly exasperated by the presumption of the nine?  That the Gospel writer includes it suggests that it was memorable!

DMin students from MIT

            Present on campus here in Shawnee are twelve Doctor of Ministry students from Myanmar.  They are in their second week of seminars, as well as various cultural experiences while here.  Over and over they express their gratitude for the privilege of studying, and they know that the generosity of the Luce Foundation makes their further development possible.  They also know that Central extends great hospitality to them.

            These ministry leaders understand that they are among the select few who are able to pursue this level of higher education.  Many of them come from villages and towns where they will be the best educated among their people as they lead various theological colleges and seminaries.  Educational opportunities in Myanmar are extremely limited outside the main cities of Yangon and Mandalay. 

            As these Christian brothers and sisters express gratitude, I see my own educational privilege and resources in a new light.  I remember the sacrifice of my parents to put me through college and the denominational underwriting for master’s and doctoral study.  From them, I am learning deeper gratitude.

            Thanking God and others is the wellspring of Christian spirituality.  Jesus understood that it was part of being fully healed, and he desired it more for the lepers’ sake than for his own satisfaction.  Cultivating a grateful heart is transformative and, hopefully, will become a daily practice among us.

            Molly T. Marshall

            To learn more about Central as a grateful seminary, continue visiting our website.