Almost thirty years ago, I happened to attend a banquet to which then Mayor Nicholas Mavroules of Peabody had also been invited. Since it was an election year, the Mayor used the opportunity to visit from table to table, shaking hands and soliciting votes. He stopped at a table, not far from where I was standing, at which a family was sitting, each member of which I knew the Mayor had helped in one way or another. When he told the father he would appreciate his vote and support in the coming election, he was promptly told “We’ll be voting for your opponent this time around.” “Well”, said the Mayor, “I appreciate your honesty, but may I ask why you won’t vote for me?” “Because”, the father replied, “you ain’t done nothing for us lately.”
That episode never left me, and has often reminded me of the scriptural story of the cure of the ten lepers. After they had been made well, only one returned to offer thanks, leading Christ to justifiably ask “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17). The nine lepers of scripture were even more ungrateful than the man at the banquet. They had just been cleansed from their new found health and freedom and were never seen or heard from again. Only one leper returned to Jesus to express his gratitude and devotion.
How could the nine have been so unappreciative? How could the man have been so ungrateful to the Mayor who had helped him so many times? To find the answer, all we need to do is look into our own hearts. When we do, we see how quickly we, too, forget that everything we are had have comes from God. We must continually nurture the grace of gratitude in our hearts, and be eternally vigilant lest a sense of entitlement makes us into one of the lepers rather than the one who returned to express thanksgiving. We must never forget that while God chooses to give us everything, he owes us nothing.