Galatians 5:25f St. Luke 17:11f
“And one...turned back...giving him thanks”
God is extravagant with his mercies; we are miserly with our thanks. There were ten “that lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”. But only “one of them when he saw that he was healed, turned back and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks; and he was a Samaritan”. In short, there are many who cry out for mercy but few who return to give thanks.
To give thanks is more than good manners; it is to acknowledge the mercy freely given and received and to esteem the giver of the mercy freely and supremely. No doubt we have good reason to cry out for mercy like the ten lepers and yet God’s mercy is not given simply for us to take and run away with it. In returning and giving thanks shall we be saved for then we enter into the motions of God’s own love: the going forth and return of the Son to the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit. We enter precisely into the thanksgiving of the Son to the Father and that is the greater mercy and point of all God’s mercies towards us.
It is the point of this gospel story and the signal note of all our liturgies – “Lord, have mercy upon us”. Our “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” arises only out of a due sense of all God’s mercies. And if we should think the actions of one Samaritan to be bit extravagant and a trifle excessive, then we have only to reflect for a moment upon the extravagances to which our liturgy regularly calls us.
For here we cry out for mercy with triple intensity – “Lord, have mercy upon us; Christ, have mercy upon us; Lord, have mercy upon us”. Here we are reminded of “the great benefits that we have received” at God’s hands. Here we are bidden to turn back and glorify him with a loud voice, to come before his presence with thanksgiving, to fall down, if not on our faces, then at least upon our knees. Here we give him thanks “for all thy goodness and loving kindness to us and all mankind...for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life, but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace and the hope of glory”. Here we bless the one who has blessed us that we may make our eucharist - our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving - in the “full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice” of the Son’s Thanksgiving to the Father. Here we are put in mind of “thy manifold and great mercies” in which we are assured “of thy favour and goodness towards us”. Here “we give thanks to thee for thy great glory”.
Our thanks to God has in it nothing so simple as mere good manners but the extravagance of his mercy towards us making his eucharist in us. But it is simply our prayer: “Give us that due sense of all thy mercies that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful”. For then we shall be like that Samaritan who perceiving the mercy which had been given “turned back and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks”. For then the extravagance of God’s mercy shall be the freedom of our thanksgiving.
“And one...turned back... giving him thanks”
Father Ed Bakker