Is It So Hard to Say "Thank You"?

Proclaim Sermons
Homily: Ordinary Time 28
October 9, 2022
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary: Grace is freely given even when gratitude is not obviously shown. Gratitude is a response to grace and may not be immediate or ostentatious. More often than not, we may not be aware of gratitude shown for grace that is freely given.

On a theological level, grace is defined as a free and unmerited act by which God restores us who are estranged from him to himself. Theologically speaking, grace is the starting point for everything that is right about religion, for grace describes the action of the sovereign God in taking the initiative to save us. We didn't deserve it and couldn't do anything to earn it, but God offered us salvation nonetheless.

That theological definition also informs the meaning of grace as we use it in everyday life. There, grace still refers to something good we have been given that we didn't deserve but nonetheless have received. Or, to say it another way, grace is something you can never earn but only be given.

Can you think of a time when you received grace you did not deserve? It could be something small: Maybe someone ahead of you in the cash-out line paid for your coffee or perhaps you received an unexpected note of gratitude in the mail for an action you scarcely remember. Or, maybe you can think of something more consequential: Perhaps someone forgave you for profoundly hurting them. Take a moment and settle on an experience of grace in your past.

When you've chosen a moment to remember, really remember it. Think about how you felt. Remember where you felt it. Did your chest tighten? Did your stomach drop? Did your head feel woozy? Recall how you reacted. Did you move your body a certain way? Did you speak? What did you say? Give yourself a moment to remember with your mind, your heart and your body.

Now take a moment to think about how you feel about that moment now. Do you feel differently about it now than you did then? Maybe it feels less fresh or perhaps you have to really dig to get back to that memory. Or maybe it feels like yesterday and your whole body, mind, and spirit can go right back to that moment. How do you experience that moment of grace today?

When you remember this moment of unexpected, undeserved grace, do you think the person or people who offered you that grace know what kind of impact it had on you? Do they know that you still remember that moment days, weeks or even years after it happened? Have you told them that it was an important experience for you?

When you have fully re-experienced this moment of grace, can you remember a time when you offered grace to someone else? Maybe you solved a problem for someone without any expectation for compensation. Maybe you gave someone something important to you because it would give them comfort or ease. Can you remember a time when you were the giver of grace?

When you remember this moment, can you remember how that other person reacted? Did they experience it as grace? Were they surprised? Did they thank you? Was their gratitude important to your extension of grace?


In today's scripture reading, Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one leper comes back to praise God, praise Jesus and thank him. Where are the other nine, Jesus asks? Why have they not praised God? Where is their expression of gratitude?

We never find out what happened to the other nine people cured of their leprosy. Perhaps they returned to their families and communities and reentered the society as though they were never ill. Or, is it possible that this miraculous event changed their lives permanently and they told their story to any who would listen, effectively preaching the good news of Jesus in many times and places?

We never find out. We will never know if they were grateful to be cured. We will never know if they freely told their stories or kept their private lives to themselves. We never hear if they were accepted back to their families and communities or if they were forever "the lepers," with or without outward signs of leprosy.

Ten percent thanks

Recently, someone was given a large piece of furniture they needed for their new home after having experienced homelessness. This particular article was heavy, and relatively expensive, more expensive than what this person could afford on her own. The woman was moving out of homelessness into her new home, and the donor was happy to help make the transition a little easier.

The donor never heard anything more from the person after providing help and didn't think much about it. She was glad to simply have the furniture moved to a new home where it could be enjoyed. A few days later, however, she heard from the recipient's friend that she was a little disappointed that the furniture was slightly dinged. Now, the donor had to admit to being annoyed. It was a free piece of furniture with lots of life left in it! Can't anyone show a little gratitude?

In truth, the furniture donation and move was not facilitated to solicit thanks. In fact, the donor probably would not have given it a second thought if the perceived lack of gratitude wasn't brought to her attention. And, with a moment of reflection, it is easy to appreciate how someone might feel about a dinged piece of furniture after experiencing homelessness - as though nothing will ever be shiny and new ever again. It is all understandable. Even so, it is hard to not feel the sting of being unappreciated after trying to do something nice for someone else.

It is difficult not to read a similar brand of annoyance into Jesus's language, "Were not ten made clean? The other nine, where are they?" Is it so hard to just say "thank you"? The story is a reminder that recognition and gratitude comes only about 10% of the time. We often don't hear from the other 90% of those healed. For all we know, they express their gratitude daily by telling the story of how they were healed, or maybe they are serving others who have not been so lucky as to be healed. Gratitude takes many forms, 90% of which we never see.

Free grace

Gratitude is our response to the grace of God as we have experienced it, and each of us experiences grace in different ways. Think back on that experience of unexpected grace you remembered earlier. You responded to that experience in a way that is particular to who you are and how you express gratitude. Perhaps you were speechless. Maybe you talked too much. Some people may express gratitude with a hug or a jump for joy. Others may be frozen in place. We cannot allow our own experiences of grace to set the parameters for the experience of others.

Think again about a time that you offered grace to others. Did their response overwhelm you? Did it surprise you? Were you upset or angered that there was no response? Or, perhaps there was a response that you only heard about much later. Most importantly, did you offer grace in order to be thanked?

God offers us grace in a multitude of ways, some of which we are scarcely aware. God's grace is offered to us freely and even without any expectation of gratitude or praise. However, when we are made aware of the grace God has extended to us, and we are moved to praise God or express our thanks, we grow in faith.

We have to find peace with the 90% who will experience grace and express gratitude apart from our awareness. Each of us becomes aware of the grace extended to us by God and by others in our own way and in our own time. Gratitude is expressed in many ways and many times, not all of which are immediate or visible to others. Grace that is freely given is also free from the expectation of a reward in return. That provides the recipient with the opportunity to grow and change in their own ways, in their own time.

May you be graced with patience in the journey of faith.

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