Our children and grandchildren are taught at a very early age words which we hope will remain with them always and that those words would be part of their personality as they grow into young men and women and then later into responsible adulthood. The words "I am sorry", "Thank You", "Please", and similar other words will be helpful to them as they develop their personality. Expressing gratitude is not an automatic response and therefore that sense of thankfulness needs to be cultivated from early on. However even if there is early indoctrination about these basic attitudes of the child from early life, especially by the parents, it does not become a habit unless one later in life practices it and exercises it. We are reminded of the wonderful line in William Shakespeare's work, "King Lear" when he bemoans: "How sharper than a serpent's tooth is to have a thankless child".
We are all aware that many times in our lives we have done many, many tasks that require a lot of time and effort. The tasks are sometimes done for others. The tasks are done and not a word of gratitude is expressed by those who have received such gifts of time and effort. That absence of gratitude influences the progress of future tasks to be done. Affirmation and gratitude for what we do and who we are on the part of families and friends and bosses goes a long way towards a fulfilled life and fulfilling work in our daily jobs. Psychologists tell us of the innate need that we all of us have to be loved, to have a sense of belonging, of trust, and of love. That implies a sense of gratitude, constant and daily, for the big and small tasks we do for one another. That is true in families, in corporations, in organizations, in societies, yes, in parishes too. Even Jesus felt that need of being appreciated as a human being, in my opinion, when he asks his disciples the question: "Who do people say that I am" and then later "who do YOU say that I am?" The response of Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mat. 16: 13-20), must have been sweet music to Jesus' ears. That is being affirmed by others.
The Gospel from St. Luke this Sunday (11: 11-19) is about being GRATEFUL. The TEN lepers were cured by Jesus and only one of them returned to give thanks to Jesus for his cure. Few of us are intentionally ungrateful. I think everyone needs to work on that sense of gratitude by spending a few moments every day thinking of someone to thank. There lies the key to gratitude. THINKING people ordinarily will become THANKING people. This is what we all aspire to in our daily living.
The Samaritan leper realizing that he had received from Jesus the gift of being healed, makes a decision to turn back to thank him. By doing that he acknowledges the divine power at work in Jesus. In turn Jesus praises him not only for this act but for the fact that this Samaritan has made a profound change that has evolved into faith. Jesus says: "Your faith has been your salvation". Healing therefore is seen as a catalyst for a faith response to God. In this way also, the more we think the more we thank, in this case, God Himself who is the only source of our belief.
We, who come together, from Sunday to Sunday, or on weekdays, are aware that the community has its fullest expression of this act of Thanksgiving in the Eucharist which we share. Here all our being, our thinking, and our thanking take a personal expression in this saving action of Jesus, uniting all of us to those who have gone before us. It is in this action, preceded by our reconciliation, that the leprosy of sin is forgiven and we are nurtured and made whole and holy so that we ourselves may become blessed, broken, and given in service to others as Jesus has done.
The Banquet of Thanksgiving is ready. Come and share it. Then, go and do the same.