Thankful – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Luke 17:11-19; 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

What we consider leprosy or Hansen’s disease today might not exactly be the same disease the Bible calls “leprosy.” In Scriptures, “leprosy” was really a catch-all term for disease that made skin dry, crusty, scaly, and well, unsightly. Back then, water was scarce and unfiltered from dirty wells. Hygiene was a luxury only the rich enjoyed. So, people must’ve broken out with really bad cases of fungal infection, eczema, psoriasis, and parasites like worms under the skin. Worse, everyone, including lepers themselves, believed this was God’s punishment. You must’ve violated God’s law big time to be smitten with such revolting, stinky blight. Leprosy was really a triple whammy. Nakapandidiri ka na sakit mo, parusa pa ‘yan ng Diyos kasi makasalanan ka, and it killed you socially, even before you were actually dead. Out of 613 biblical laws, sisters and brothers, 213 were related to health and matters of hygiene. The temple priests made sure they were duly obeyed, and that violators were duly shunned, until they showed signs of recovery.

Kaya naman gano’n na lang ang pasasalamat nung mama kay Hesus. He wasn’t only cured of what everyone thought was hopeless. He was also pardoned of what everyone thought was unforgivable. But best of all, he could go back to his family, pray at the Temple, look for a job, hug his kids. Kaya naman gano’n na lang ang pasasalamat niya. Nagsisigaw sa galak at dumapa pa na halos sambahin si Hesus.

Sisters and brothers, I’m sure you’ve met great givers in your life, if you’re not one yourself—you know, people who have a gift of generosity. But I was wondering, have you ever met great thankers, too? ‘Yung masarap magpasalamat? ‘Yun bang gaganahan ka pang magbigay kasi taos at tagos ‘yung pagpapasalamat? Hindi sapilitan. Hindi kuripot. Hindi labas sa ilong.

I have a friend who had a very faithful yaya for the longest time. Then, yaya met her Spaniard pen-pal. So, off she went to Spain, where she now lives in ease she never imagined she’d enjoy. But without fail, she keeps sending my friend pasalubong to this day, ever grateful to Ma’am for letting her go to chase her dream, kahit alam niyang mahihirapan si Ma’am makahanap ng kapalit. When my dad was still lawyering, now and then, he would give free legal advice to people who couldn’t afford a lawyer. Nagugulat na lang siya. They’d pop in from nowhere, bringing him gulay, isda, buhay na manok, out of sheer gratitude. Then, there’s this married couple who approached me after a mass for a blessing. It was their 30-plus wedding anniversary. To this day, they still text to thank me. E’ Diyos ko, simpleng blessing lang naman ‘yon; pray-ober, wala pa ngang holy water. Pero hindi na nila nakalimutan.

Have you met a great thanker? Nakakataba ng puso. That’s why I have no doubt that Jesus must have been deeply touched: a stranger he cured from a distance cared enough to seek him and thank him profusely, “glorifying God in a loud voice, falling at his feet.” Don’t you think, sisters and brothers, that people who have the gift of expressing gratitude are also gifted with the capacity for great love? Ever thought of that? ‘Yung masarap magpasalamat, malamang malalim din ‘yan magmahal. Contrariwise, ang inggrato, malamang kuripot din magmahal.

Just a little reality check, though. While Jesus healed the leper completely, this might not have been the end of the man’s troubles. With 1/3 of all laws governing health and hygiene, would you be surprised if several religious authorities would never get over his leprosy? As far as they were concerned, he was marked for life as a sinner. They’d probably keep judging him, badmouthing him, and shunning him, regardless of his transformation. May mga gano’n po, ‘di ba? ‘Yun bang kahit anong pagbabago n’yo, markado na kayo sa kanila. Regardless of God’s grace on us, they presume to have the last word on whether we’re healed and changed…or not. Na para bang utang pa natin sa kanila na patunayang pinatawad at binago na tayo ng Diyos.

‘Buti na lang po, lahaaaat ng biyayang tinatanggap natin sa buhay, galing talaga sa Diyos, kung tutuusin. Ang tao tagapamagitan lang ng grasya. Hindi tayo may-ari nito. All of us are indebted to God all of the time. And there is great value in remembering this each day: not that people are indebted to us, but that all of us are indebted to God. This is why I believe that true gratitude is fed and grown by two experiences: bliss over how much more God bestows us than we really deserve, and horror over how much loss we would have suffered if God really gave us exactly what we deserved. Allow me to say that again po. True gratitude is really fed and grown by two experiences: the sheer joy over how much more God bestows us than we really deserve, and the sheer dread over how much loss we would’ve suffered if God really gave us exactly what we deserved.

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