As a kid, I loved the connect-the-dots ‘games’ I’d find in the Highlight magazines in the dentist office and the occasional homework assignment. However, I, who draw stick fish, never realized that you didn’t have to draw exact straight lines between the numbers. In fact, if you were a bit more fluid in your connecting of the dots, the picture would turn out much better. The kids who were good, were the one who somehow sensed what the picture would turn out to be, and then used the dots, not as a rigid guide, but as a kind of outline to their free handed drawing. Though I loved connecting the dots, I was not always very good at it.
Today’s gospel is really all about connecting the dots, isn’t it? Making the connection between the healing that happened, and the source of that healing. And nine of the people in the story were not very good at it. The Samaritan, however, was able to connect the dots. And he connects them in a non-slavish way, because he ignores Jesus’ command to “show yourself to the priests” – but rather realizes there is a bigger picture going on here. So he returns to the source of it all – to dot #1 as it were. And because of that choice, Jesus tells him: “Your FAITH has been your salvation.” Notice that Jesus says SALVATION, not just your healing. The other nine shared that. Only this Samaritan’s faith, his connecting the dots, his drawing a line between his healing and the source of that healing, lead him to that life giving relationship with Jesus we call salvation. He was good at connecting the dots…
A good friend of mine was struggling a bit with some health issues. That gradually began to take a toll on her emotional well being. A priest invited her to ‘practice daily gratitude.’ So she began to write down five things a day she was grateful for. Five things that day that made her day, or at least brightened her day. And if those were not so apparent, she would LOOK for things to be grateful for. That practice has made a huge difference in her life and world. “It’s like I sense the hand of God all over the place now, because I am learning to look for it.” So she spends the last moments before sleep each night connecting the dots of her day to the source of the blessings.
And you and I – how well do we connect the dots? The sun rose again this morning. You walked on two functional, legs to get here tonight (they may creak and ache more than usual…) Synapses are working in your brain so that you can convert the syllables that I speak into meaningful constructs. Your heart beat over 100,000 times today. You breathed and oxygen was transferred from the chambers of your lungs to the hemoglobin in your blood and from there to all the parts of your body. These are all amazing things which we take for granted day after day and moment after moment.
When was the last time that you thanked God for being able to breathe? For the person behind you in church who sings off key, because it means that you can hear? For the mess to clean after a party, because it means that you have friends who love you? For the clothes that fit just a bit too snug, because it means that you have more than enough food to eat? For the joy you felt as the wind touched your face during a morning run? (or for Advil the morning after Men’s club soccer night)
Like the Samaritan, may we learn to connect the dots – and to let our gratefulness spill over into action – praise for our God and service for our sisters and brothers. Here around this table, we offer our gifts of thankfulness and praise. And as we receive the Lord in this Eucharist, may we hear him say to us – “Go, your faith has been your salvation…”