"Has none but this foreigner retured to give thanks?" (Luke 17:19).
What was it about the one Samaritan among the other lepers that moved him to return to Jesus to thank him? Was it because he was the outsider, the last person to think that he would share in the healing given the Jewish lepers from a Jewish healer? His astonishmnt at being cleansed must have overwhelmed him. In any event, his outcast status meant he could not go with the others to show himself to the priests and offer sacrifice in the temple.
As they went off rejoicing, he stood alone, looking at his hands, feeling his face to be sure that everything was smooth and whole again. He was free to go home, to return to his famiily in Samaria. How long had he been separated from his wife and children, his parents, relatives and the community he had once been part of? When he got home and everyone had shared his astonishment at what had happened to him, perhaps they would have a feast. Everyone would be there, crowded around the table, hearing his prayer of gratitude to the man from Galilee who had not hesitated to heal him, the Samaritan.
But first he would go back to find Jesus to say thank you. Was it then, in that chance to reflect even more deeply on the source of the gift he had received, that he began to understand that Jesus was more than a miracle worker?
Finding Jesus, the man fell to his knees, tears running down his cheeks, unable to find words to express his gratitude. Jesus turned and reached down and lifted him to his feet. He looked at him with love and praised him for seeking to grasp the meaning of this encounter, not just for his physical health, but because salvation had come to him that day. His faith had saved him.
We will pause today to take stock of our blessings, hopefully at a family table surrounded by those we love. May our feasting also be a Eucharist, with Jesus presiding, sharing the ultimate sign of Thanksgiving. May there be at least one or two outcasts among us, family members perhaps, or a leper, or strangers welcomed to share our bounty. May we have eyes to see the hidden blessings, always more than we had imagined, and multiplied because we opened our hearts in gratitude.