Published as a column in the Holy Sepulcher Bulletin for October 13, 2013
Thanksgiving is coming up soon! It is November 28 this year, just over a month away. How are your preparations coming along? For Canadians Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October, Monday of this week, so their preparations should be just about completed. For practicing Jews Thanksgiving is not a day, but a week-long festival called Sukkot (pronounced Sue Coat, also known as the Festival of Tabernacles) whose date moves much like Easter does for Christians, and is held sometime between September and October. It ended on September 25 this year, so they have already cleaned up and finished for the year. Today’s gospel reminds us that Thanksgiving should not be a holiday or festival that lasts just a day or a week. Today’s gospel calls us to regular Thanksgiving.
In today’s gospel, ten lepers passionately petition the Lord, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” that they might be healed of the leprosy that is afflicting them, causing them to be marginalized by society. Jesus grants their request to be healed and sends the outcasts away, but they do not realize that they have been healed. When the ten lepers realize that they have been cured of their leprosy, only one, a Samaritan, returns to Jesus to thank him for granting his request to be healed.
How often we are like the unthankful nine lepers, not offering gratitude to the Lord when he has granted our requests in prayer. Jesus has provided each one of us with so many blessings in our lives (family, friends, talents, intellect, even life itself, as well as his total love, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation), things that are far beyond anything we could have hoped or imagined, yet we often do not thank Jesus for them. Today’s gospel gives us the example of the Samaritan leper to follow, to be thankful, and to show gratitude to the Lord.
Being thankful and having gratitude are so important in our spiritual lives, so important that they are part of the daily examen developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises and practiced by the Jesuit Order that he founded, including Pope Francis himself. During the daily examen an individual prayerfully reflects on the day with gratitude, thanking God for the gifts that He has provided throughout that day. This practice provides many spiritual blessings:
- Draws you closer to God – Gratitude allows you to recognize God at work in your life, making Him and his guiding hand very real to you
- Gives you peace – Knowing that God is taking care of things in your life allows you to relax and rely on God and not yourself
- Increases your humility – When you see how much God is at work in your life, you realize that it is not about you, it is about God
- Increases your generosity – When you see that God is the one responsible for providing you with your many gifts of time, talent, and treasure, you realize that they are not your sole possession, that they must be shared with others
So let us not wait until next month to give thanks to God for our many blessings. Let us start celebrating Thanksgiving today by spending a little time each day prayerfully reflecting on what God has done for us and then give him all the gratitude that He deserves. We will draw closer to Him, our relationship with Him will grow, and we will grow in virtue as a result. Let us celebrate Thanksgiving today and every day throughout the year!
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
- Where have I seen God at work in my life today?
- What gifts and blessings has God provided me today?
- What gifts and blessings that God has provided to me today can I share with others tomorrow?