One of the greatest miracles that Jesus performed was to cure ten lepers of their disease (Lk 17:11-19), and after having received such a tremendous gift from Jesus, only one of the ten came back to thank him. In disappointment Jesus asked, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Lk 17:18).
St. Paul tells us that we should “be thankful” (Col 3:15b). Every Mass at the Preface Dialogue we say that it is right and just to give thanks to the Lord our God. Yet Jesus rarely received any thanks. In fact, when the Samaritan fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him (Lk 17:16), it is the only time in all four gospels that someone thanked him.
There may have been other occasions when someone received something from Jesus and then came back to offer their praise or express their gratitude, but none of the four evangelists records one other instance, and as memorable as such an event would have been, it would have been worthy of inclusion. It seems that Jesus was rarely thanked, not by his apostles, not by those who were cured, not by those who were forgiven, and not by those who were taught by him. Jesus’ ministry was a thankless task. He was grossly underappreciated.
The twelve apostles were among the worst offenders when it came to ingratitude. When Jesus called them to be his disciples (Lk 6:13), they did not thank him for choosing them. When Jesus invited them to accompany him (Lk 8:1), they did not thank him for making them his partners. When Jesus took them aside and gave them private explanations (e.g., Lk 8:9-15), they did not thank his for his extra time and attention. When Jesus commissioned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases (Lk 9:1), they did not thank him for their special appointments or exceptional powers.
The apostles’ lack of gratitude seems more reprehensible during their final days with Jesus. No one thanked him for the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Worse yet, no one thanked Jesus’ for his death on the Cross and his gifts of redemption and salvation. When Jesus appeared to them after his Resurrection and greeted them with the words “Peace be with you,” no one thanked him for his mercy and forgiveness. It took until after Jesus had ascended to heaven until the apostles did him homage and praised God (Lk 24:52,53).
The disciples had many reasons to be thankful and so do we. The process begins with our ability to recognize what we have been given. For starters, we need to set aside time to reflect and count our blessings. Next, with our blessings in mind, we should thank God and with our prayers of praise, both personal prayers of gratitude said alone and prayers at Mass said with others. St. Paul specifically mentions singing as a particularly good way to express our thanks: “Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16). Another excellent way to express our gratitude is to put our gifts to good use, to place them at the service of others, and to do so in ways that give glory to God.