GRANT, GIFT, GRATITUDE?


28th Sunday Year C
October 13, 2013

GRANT, GIFT, GRATITUDE?

Certain words have all of a sudden become very popular in the Philippines … one of them is “scholars.” These poor deserving and brilliant students from the boonies suddenly became the focus of legislators’ undying proclamations of love, largesse, and lasting generosity. Another is the word “gift.” The word has become synonymous with “grant,” with “incentive” or – let us now name it – everlasting “gratitude.”

Few people, of course, actually believe the legislators have the welfare of “scholars” uppermost in their minds, and only the most gullible would be led to believe that whatever monies were distributed post factum (read: the passage of something wanted by the big man on top) had to do with selfless grants, or altruistic “gifts” or philanthropic expressions of endless “gratitude.”

Be that as it may, we should accept one thing at least … Today’s readings do have a word or two to say about “gratitude.” And since we are at it, let me state from the outset, that gratitude, coming as it does from “gratis” which means “free,” is something freely given in return for something freely received.

And the important crucial word is “freely.”

Naaman was one person who did not deserve the help of Elisha. He was a leprous and a foreigner – by any standard a bad combination … (read: unclean, hated, and one who “does not belong”). Why Elisha went out of his way to give him tips for healing is the core of the mystery of charity.

But the mystery deepens, as we now see. Why Naaman, who followed his health tips to the letter and got cured and eventually returned took the mystery a notch higher. This is the mystery of gratitude!

We all know now that the shallow and less honorable “mysteries” (read: shenanigans!) taking place at the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of Philippine government all have nothing to do with these lofty mysteries whereof we speak. They all have been unmasked. And the honorable men and women that they love to call themselves have been exposed as nothing more than hoodlums in honorable garb, helping themselves to oodles of moolah that never belonged to them in the first place.

But I digress … Naaman was one such grateful guy who did the unthinkable! First, he asked for health advice from a Jew, Elisha. Second, he actually came back! Now this is what “grace upon grace” really is all about. It’s about being gracious for having received equal graciousness from others. It’s about being grateful for something one received freely, not begrudgingly.

Naaman ought to be the postmodern man or woman’s model now. We live in a world populated by ungrateful people.

And why do you think so?

Simple. We live in a world characterized by a veritable narcissism epidemic. Among other things, narcissists have this so-called big sense of entitlement. They think they deserve everything, and that the world owes them everything. Like our politicians, they think they deserve to help themselves to the people’s hard-earned money from taxes. Like spoiled brats, we often think we deserve to get the best, be given the best, and be treated no less than the best.

The gospel takes it up notches higher. There were ten lepers. Lepers were no popular characters! They deserved nothing then. They were considered pariahs. They did not count for anything. But how many came back to return “grace for grace,” “grace upon grace”?

Only one!

The other nine probably thought it was nothing more than an “incentive” that was due to them in the first place. There was nothing to thank anyone for, for that was after all, all due to them. They were, after all, deserving of all of it.

This is the story of us all. This is the mystery about public money disappearing into thin air … then … as well as now. This is the story of SIN.

Let us go make another story with a different ending. That story begins now, for you and me … “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.”

It is the Lord … not the party, not the boss, not me! To Him is due all thanks, all gratitude, for the truth is, “everything is grace.”

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