Upon arriving in the hospital room of a man who was dying, I met his wife and invited her to pray with me. However, she chose to stand off in the corner. As it was an unusually large room, she wasn’t that close, she just stood there watching. After I completed the Rite, she said that she isn’t Catholic and that she didn’t know what I was doing or why, but that her husband was and she knew it was important that he had whatever it was I just did.

Often it takes an outsider – a non-Catholic and even at times, a non-Christian – to help us to understand who we are and to more deeply appreciate the great gifts we have.

Naaman, a Syrian, shows deeper awareness of the presence of God in Israel than did many of the Israelites of his day. His desire to take home some of the soil from the land was based on an ancient  belief common among the people of the Middle East that the gods were connected to the soil where they were worshiped. In effect, Naaman desired to worship the God of the Israelites and not the gods of his own people. In taking home a mule load of soil from Israel, he could build a shrine to the God of Israel in Syria.

He, like the Samaritan leper healed by Jesus, recognizes the action of God in his life. The Samaritan leper returns to Jesus and thanks him for healing. The other nine lepers go their way without a second thought. While there are legitimate cultural and religious reasons why the others did not offer thanks to Jesus, it was this Samaritan who had the bold courage to risk much to find Jesus again.

We, too, can easily take the gifts that God bestows upon us for granted. It is easy to assume that because God did good for us yesterday, that he will continue to do good for us today. In the celebration of the Mass, much like the rituals of the Passover Seder, both begin by reminding and thanking God for the gifts he has bestowed upon us in the past. Only then do we pray that the Lord continues in our present what has already been accomplished for us.

Unfortunately, it is only when a crisis hits, or when a situation becomes desperate, that we again cry out to God for help. Usually we forget the “thanks” and just plea for help.

This lack of giving thanks to God – to even recognizing that God is at the core of our lives – has allowed us to grow even more lax in faith.

Every week we are called – and every day we are offered the opportunity – to do as the Samaritan leper did: to glorify God in a loud voice; fall at the feet of Jesus and thank him. This act of offering thanksgiving to God is called the Eucharist. We are all invited to share in the Eucharistic offering of thanks for the great gifts this of life and the promise of eternal life.

Like the Samaritan, Naaman, and an ordinary wife caring for her husband’s final moments, we are called to offer thanksgiving to our loving God before we dare even call upon him to act again in our lives.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.