Deuteronomy 8:7-18; Psalm 65; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 17:11-19
When I was home last week to visit family and friends I witnessed a scenario that I think most of us have seen many times throughout our lives. A mother, picking up some items in the grocery store on her way home, her small boy sitting in the grocery cart, runs into a friend of hers. For a moment the boy is lavished with attention and the lady gives him a piece of candy. At once the mother asks the boy, “Now, what do you say?” The question is followed by a suspenseful moment where the mother hopes her son will take the bait and recall a scene which naturally has been rehearsed many times up to this point. I am happy to report that the boy smiled and in broken English said “thank you,” the friend doted more on the boy, and the mother stood there beaming with pride and probably a little relief.
Thanksgiving Day is a time when we in this country give pause to reflect on how we have been blessed and to say thank you. Most of us have probably taken part in the tradition where before the Thanksgiving meal is served, each member of the family says something for which they’re most thankful. In the age of social media, many will take this tradition to the web and post their thanksgivings to Facebook and Twitter, a breath of fresh air amidst the many isolating comments and opinions showcasing personal views on religion, politics, and the state of the world. There are people who, like us, will gather today in their places of worship to offer thanks to God, the creator of all things and from whom all blessings flow. In the context of this Eucharist (which is a Greek word meaning gratitude) we will corporately give thanks in the liturgy of the table. The celebrant sings “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” We respond, “It is right to give God thanks and praise.”
I believe these words sum up today’s Gospel reading from Luke. Jesus encounters ten lepers on the road between Samaria and Galilee and they cry out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus says, “Go and show yourselves to the priests,” an action required of those who have been healed to be officially readmitted to the Temple. On their way, they were made clean. One of them after seeing that he had been healed ran back and fell before Jesus’ feet and offered his thanks. Why? Did this man’s mother teach him the value of expressing gratitude when he was younger? When begging for alms, did he express gratitude to everyone who gave to him? We don’t know. But in this one instance, we see a man who upon receiving God’s grace, instinctively turned back to say thank you. He didn’t wait until after he had followed Jesus’ instructions. He didn’t wait for a specific day set apart for gratitude. Jesus had acted and the Samaritan man knew that he had to respond. His healing was completed and made holy by his expression of gratitude to Jesus.
How can we follow the example of this man? How can we live ‘eucharistically,’ that is a life permeated with gratitude? First I would say, don’t wait…..don’t wait to say thank you. You never know if you’ll have another chance to express gratitude. Whether you’ve received a gift from a friend, a kindness from a stranger, or an answer to a prayer, don’t wait. Seize the moment and offer your thanks. Second, take a moment and think back to key moments in your life: graduation from school, a senior recital, your first job offer, or….well, you fill in the blank. Think back to some of these occasions and think about the figures in your life that made these events possible. If you’re able, send a note expressing your gratitude. We couldn’t have done these things on our own. Somewhere at some time, someone devoted time and energy to our well-being. Let them know how you’ve been blessed by their actions. Third, start and end your day with a short reflection. In the morning think through your day: the work you will do, the people you’ll come into contact with, the uncertainties you face, the possibilities there are for joy and acts of kindness, those whom you have been asked to pray, the situations where you may need God’s help. Then be mindful of these throughout your day and as you encounter them, offer to God. Eucharistic living is not just about saying thank you but about our response to God by living fully into the life we’ve been given. In the evening before you go to bed, think back through the day: what surprised you? For what are you thankful? Where did you come up short and in need of God’s grace? Before you close your eyes, offer these to God with the hope of new life, new joys, new possibilities for the next day.
You may find yourself at this time in a place of difficulty, uncertainty, perhaps unable to see over the hill where your path is leading. Perhaps you are in need of healing or forgiveness for something you’ve done. If this is so, then make that your prayer and offering to God. The cross is a sign that we have not been abandoned and left alone. Jesus is God Emmanuel, that is, ‘God with us,’ and he desires relationship and will companion us even when the going is rough. Mahatma Gandhi once said “My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents, and I lay them both at His feet.” Wherever you may be at this point in your pilgrimage, live eucharistically, offer your lives to God. Don’t wait!
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