10 lepers approached Jesus with the request that He heal them. Jesus instructed them to first go to the priests and offer what Moses has prescribed. And, on their way they were cleansed. One of them, realizing he had been cured, retook his steps to find Jesus and express his gratitude to God. Jesus, upon receiving the man, was surprised that only one was inspired enough to give God thanks. “Where are the other nine,” Jesus explained, sadly. “Was there no one to give thanks to God except this foreigner?” Luke 17, 11-19
In my short life thus far I have come to understand that thanksgiving takes on its highest meaning following experiences like suffering, chaos, deprivation, poverty and loss.
We raise our children to say thank-you whenever they receive something from someone’s generosity. However, it takes time and life-experience for our children to understand the real power behind thanks.
For the pilgrims of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, of that first Thanksgiving in the year of our Lord 1621, the beauty of the world was found in its bounty. They could hear the author of the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy say, “The Lord, your God, is bringing you into a good country, a land with streams of water, with springs and fountains welling up in the hills and valleys, a land of wheat and barley, of vine and fig trees.”
Having arrived in an untamed world underneath it all for them was a deep love of nature and a sense that God was everywhere in the beauty and bounty of the earth. They knelt to give thanks for that generous gift. They were now safe after a long arduous journey and a hard winter of deprivation and the deaths of a number of their companions.
Now, in the Plymouth wilderness sitting down with first Americans, eating foods from the wild never before tasted, undoubtedly motivated by gratitude for survival but more deeply moved by a recognition that the graciousness of God had pulled them through the dark, cold days of the struggle to form a new colony away from oppression and religious persecution in their homeland from whence they came.
Pilgrims, they were trustees for future generations and were to set an example for a civilized new world, to, as St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians urges, sing “with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
So, where do the lepers of today’s Gospel come in? Well, their story is one of giving and receiving. A thanksgiving story, no doubt.
The inability to give or show gratitude is a mark of disfigurement, a kind of spiritual leprosy. One who can neither give nor receive can never enter into a relationship of grace, a covenant of love. The leper who returned to Jesus to say “thanks” enters into a relationship with God.
The other nine stood far off, negating even the possibility that something could happen. They stood on the fringes of life because they could not, in their hearts, find time to give thanks. Their spirits remained leprous. It is almost as if they took for granted that they would be cured, as if it were their right. Their bodies were now whole, their souls still marked with decay.
Everyone of us has something for which to be thankful. It helps, I think, to recall the chaos, suffering, deprivation that has marked your life so that power can be given the thanks you raise in prayer on Thanksgiving Day. For there is wisdom to be discovered from the crosses we are asked to carry in life.
Like the pilgrims, most of us have fought the storms, banished the threats, overcome the fears and made covenants of friendship with God and each other. We are all pilgrims walking an earthly path on the way to a heavenly land where we will be giving thanks for all eternity.
Sitting down to the big meal seems like the highlight of Thanksgiving, but the highlight really comes a couple hours later. The pumpkin pie is gone, the turkey is picked over, the dishes are done, relatives, friends and guests are gone, the kids and pets are snoozing and somehow, when all is quieted down, the labor for the feast is done, in the depth of your soul you join a whole nation, satiated with food and drink, as if embraced by the wide arms of God, and give a sigh of relief and say “Thank you God!”
Before you sit down to feast at a table others have prepared, remember to say thanks to the wife, the kids and anyone else who deserves to sense your heart and feel what you really mean to them. Remember to lead your household in prayer in thanks to an all provident God!
We are born into this world with empty hands and we take nothing from this world with us in the end. All that we have, we receive from the generosity of God. Today, we thank God for his care of us and praise him for his kindness.
Please respond, “Keep us thankful O Lord!”
- We give you thanks O God for our Holy Father the Pope, our bishop, and his assistant bishops and all of our pastors who share in your ministry and authority; that you may guide them so that they exercise your power wisely, let us pray to the Lord.
- We give thanks O God for the many blessings you have showered upon us. For those who have not received as much of your bounty, for the poor and needy of your world, the unemployed and those who struggle in any way, we pray to the Lord.
- We give thanks O God for your limitless mercy and the treasury of your goodness which you share with us. That those who do not recognize your love may become aware of your kindness, let us pray to the Lord.
- We give thanks O God for the family and friends you have given us. That they may always know your generosity and protection and be appreciative of your gifts, let us pray to the Lord.
- We give thanks O God for the gift of redemption and the forgiveness of our sins; that our lives may show forth more clearly the predilection we enjoy by your Son’s death and resurrection for our sakes, we pray to the Lord.
Almighty Father, we give thanks to your majesty for the many gifts we have received; we ask you to continue your kindness and forsake us not, through Christ our Lord. Amen!
+ JNP 2011
If this post was meaningful to you, please rate it below.
Click the Follow button to receive an email from each blog post, or elect to receive daily or weekly digests of all of new posts.
Catholic Chicago Men Blog is a labor of love. If this blog or its content has helped you or someone you love, please consider donating.