Today we celebrate our national holiday of Thanksgiving. While it is a secular holiday in origin, it is a holiday that reminds us to be thankful for what God has given us. In the spirit of giving thanks, our Catholic Church has special readings that can be used today at Mass.
The gospel reading is very fitting. It is the story from Luke 17:11-19 of the ten lepers who go to Jesus and ask him, “Have pity on us.” Jesus’ response might seem surprising. He simply tells them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” He does not heal them first. Going to the priests is something lepers would do after they are healed. Yet, they do as Jesus says. Their going as he says is an act of faith. Their act of faith does not go unnoticed. They are healed.
One of them, “realizing he had been healed,” returned to Jesus to glorify God and give thanks. What happened to the other nine? We don’t know. We might suppose they continued on their way to show themselves to the priests as Jesus had directed. Yet, we can’t help but wonder. They must have realized they had been healed. Why didn’t they return to Jesus to give thanks. Did they not realize the source of their healing?
With such an obvious healing, it should be easy to realize the need to give thanks to God. What about miracles that aren’t so obvious? For example, if we are battling cancer and the disease is gone in an instant, then we should realize God’s hand in it and give thanks. However, if we fight the disease for a long time with medical treatment and are healed gradually, do we give thanks to God for the healing? Do we even thank the medical team?
What else might we be thankful for? Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus.” Paul gave thanks to God for giving grace to OTHER people. Are we thankful for the blessings we see other people get or are we envious? Are we thankful when someone else gets a great job or is cured of cancer? Are we thankful when their life is going well or are we jealous?
Again, what else might we be thankful for? How about when we have a difficult week and we are just happy it is over? This is what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. Last week was a very busy week for me with meetings scheduled with the diocese, parish staff, holy hour, confessions, etc. all scheduled ahead of time. I knew I would be busy. Then to add to it, my great-aunt died and more meetings that had to happen soon came in. By the end of the week I was exhausted, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually too. I was grateful the week was over. It’s not that there weren’t good moments. Perhaps the best moment of the week was the holy hour with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament when I could feel God at work in me.
When I realized the week was over and found some relief, it made realize that while it was busy and not everything went the way I would have liked, I got through the week because God was with me. Some of what happened I would guess wasn’t what God wanted either but he was present with me through it. For that I am thankful.
What are you thankful for?