Sirach 50:22-24; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19
I recently came across an article written by a psychologist who believes that developing an “attitude of gratitude” is important for our mental health. In her words, “Being able to appreciate what is important to us is a truly valuable way of stepping back from the stresses we are experiencing and re-framing our thoughts and attention, our feelings and behavior.”1
With all due respect, she should have checked Scripture first. If she had gone even as far as today’s readings she would have found much more insight.
The author of Sirach goes right to the heart of the matter when he reminds us to be grateful for the gift of life itself from conception onward. The grim realities of abortion and euthanasia are evidence of a culture where people do not understand the value of their own life let alone anyone else’s. The kind of social sickness that breeds such an attitude will be hard to heal but we have on call the Divine Physician who knows how to treat it. As we continue to pray for his intervention let us not forget our part; that is, showing thankfulness to God for the gift of all human life by doing whatever we can to support it, whether that means women in crisis pregnancies, people suffering from abuse or neglect, or those who are encouraged to end their lives. The world must come to see through Christ and his Church that every human life is infinitely valuable because it is made in God’s image and fashioned according to his will (Sirach 50:22).
God’s will, that we have life and have it abundantly now and in eternity, comes to the fore as St. Paul reminds us of the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4). While human life is certainly enough to be thankful for in and of itself, God has given us the opportunity to share in so much more: Eternal life through the gift of his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom we have fellowship and of whom we partake at every Eucharist just for this purpose.
Still, a common problem is that we tend to take this fellowship for granted and forget gratitude. We fall into a routine of receiving Communion with little or no thought as to what – or rather Who – we are receiving. Like the nine lepers in today’s gospel passage, we are given what we ask for but then go back on our way with little regard either for the gift or what it cost the Giver. St. Paul goes on to warn about the grave danger of such ingratitude: That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying (1 Corinthians 11:30). The healthier, more grateful response is to first discern whether we are in the state of grace to receive Christ and, if not, to make ourselves a more worthy vessel. Like the leper who, once cleansed, remembered to be thankful, we thank God for what he has given us through the Church – the gifts of faith and the Sacraments through which he touches, heals, and sanctifies us.
Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, a day set aside to show our gratitude. Wherever you are, I urge you to stop and think about all that God has given you. No matter who you are or how many problems you struggle with, there is reason to be grateful. First and foremost, be grateful for life; each breath is a gift from God given that we may live life to the full. Secondly let us be grateful for each other; each person is a gift from God, sent to make us holy. Finally, let us thank God for the gift of the Church, through which Christ comes to us in Word and Sacrament to be one with us and above all to make us one with him, now and in Eternity.
A very blessed and happy Thanksgiving.