The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
October 9th, 2021 – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 17:11-19
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As a child I wrote very few letters. Most of them were “thank you” notes to aunts and uncles who had sent me birthday and Christmas gifts. It was not clear to me back then why this seemed such a necessity. After all, my notes were mostly the same year after year. “Thank you for the ______. It was something I always wanted. Your nephew, David.”
As the years passed, I grew more and more negative about what I viewed as a waste of my time. So, I asked my mom about why I should continue writing letters that I felt were mostly meaningless. With her practical wisdom she responded. “So you’ll get another gift next year.” Case closed. Such practical wisdom.
Today’s gospel will be familiar to most. Ten lepers were healed by Jesus, but only one returned to thank him. Gratitude was important because it was part of the way things go. I like this gospel because it’s not just a reminder about being grateful for special gifts and favors, but also about everything that we receive from God. Which ends up being almost everything.
This may sound surprising in a culture that values personal achievement and accomplishment. We hear of people described as self-made or who worked hard to get where they are. I recently read that some people have a great deal of difficulty even saying the simple words, “thank you.” Maybe they can’t admit to being needy in any way or dependent on others.
Which brings us to the issue of why the basic attitude of gratitude is such an important Christian virtue. And why the celebration of the Eucharist (the Greek word for thanksgiving) is such a central part of a vital life of faith. Here’s what the respected Catholic spiritual writer of theTwentieth Century, Thomas Merton, states: “The grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that makes all the difference.”
Expressing gratitude in prayer acknowledges one of the deepest truths about our lives: That you and I exist because of an act of love by God for each of us. Expressing gratitude for that, and for the countless gifts we receive throughout our lives, like the gifts of family, friends, knowledge, the pleasure of each day however small, allows us to touch one of the deepest aspects of our loves. We are loved into existence day by day, moment by moment, by the Creator of all that is.
©David M. Thomas, PhD