Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son. Many among us know the words to this hymn of thankfulness. We all have so much to be thankful for; even if our life today has been visited by pain or sorrow, we all can be thankful for the gifts that come from God, the gift of our faith!
We all love to hear thank-you. And we love to express our thanks too. Thanksgiving, already just one month away, is one of our all-time favorite holidays because of it's focus on being thankful. Many families have a tradition before eating the Thanksgiving meal of going around the table and saying something for which they can give thanks. And while there may be many, many things we can be thankful for, that which we all hold in common is thankfulness, gratefulness for Jesus Christ and our faith!
As people of faith we are always called to be thankful people. As people of faith, our words and our deeds should convey an attitude of gratitude.
Continuing in the 17th chapter of St. Luke we find Jesus being approached by ten lepers. Whether or not the ten had leprosy, as we understand it today, it is evident that they are suffering from a hideous disease of the skin. Because of their condition, the law prevented them from approaching or mingling with the crowds; with healthy people. By law and by social interaction, they were separated, they were outcasts. Yet the ten found the courage to approach Jesus, to stand at a distance perhaps, but approach Jesus and cry for help. Have pity on us, they cry, as they acknowledge Jesus as “master”. Despite their disease, despite their separation, the ten recognized something amazing, something special about Jesus. And even more amazing, the ten, ostracized by the masses, were united in suffering despite one among them being a Samaritan. Why is this significant? The answer is simple; Jews and Samaritans really didn’t like each other! The differences are real: cultural, religious and racial. Yet the ten learned to coexist; their infirmity was enough to unite them despite these important differences.
And Jesus indeed heals them. He further instructs them to go and show themselves to the priests. In that time and culture, to be legally cured of leprosy or diseases of the skin you needed both the cure and the declaration of a priest that you are clean. So they did what Jesus instructed them to do. But this Gospel is more than just a lesson in healing as we discover when the Samaritan alone comes back to Jesus and says thank-you. Of the ten, it is the most unlikely, by human standards, that returns and gives thanks. What is being taught here? Is it just a reminder to give thanks to God for his gifts and blessings or is it also a reminder that all, including the least among us, can receive God’s gifts? The answer is yes, all of the above!
What does this Gospel message mean for us today? How are we called to respond to this passage? We are called to respond to God profound gratefulness, profound thankfulness. There are simple things we can do; giving thanks every morning before we start our day or giving thanks before we go to bed for the day just completed. Do we give thanks before meals? Is the age old practice of grace before meals something we have allowed to fall into disuse?
Sometimes we can give thanks to God by responding generously to the needs of His Church. Here in our parish, where we have reasons to be thankful because we are a community of many blessings, we have two important drives underway. To support our own efforts to feed the needy as the holidays draw near, we are sponsoring a food drive. The flyers that each of us will receive on the way out of church today will guide us in the foodstuffs necessary for the families we hope to feed. And the special spaghetti dinner held today in the church hall will benefit the efforts to purchase turkeys and other food to supplement our own food drive. So being thankful, will we contribute joyfully to the food drive and visit today's dinner? And more, as we strive to demonstrate our attitude of gratitude, can we volunteer to help with our food drive and the actual food distribution to our needy neighbors? Also underway in our parish is a diaper drive to help three very Pro-Life agencies we support. Now maybe you forgot so bring some diapers during the week, or next week or go an visit one of the centers yourself. Maybe you will discover another way to be helpful. In thankfulness we can support these or many other causes, we can live our thankfulness by praying for the needs of one another or just being present to someone who so needs the gift of presence! In all things, give thanks with a grateful heart!
In who we are, in what we do, because He has given to each of us His Son, Jesus Christ; may we always give thanks to the Lord for He is Good!