Saturday 12 October 2013

The one who came to give thanks

The gospel of the ten lepers and of the one who returned to give thanks (28th Sunday Year C). The grateful one did not get anything more. The others did not lose what they received. God does not withdraw his gifts. "Even if we are faithless, he will remain faithful" (2nd R). "God does not repent of his gifts."

Gratitude is a beautiful thing because there are no reasons to explain it. Why should I be grateful? There are no reasons. (Just like there are no reasons for climbing mountains. Why climb mountains, What's the point, Gus asked the other day. Why, because they are there, was the only thing I could think of.) Gratitude has no ulterior motivations. It is something pure and free. An act of our freedom. True thanksgiving is for mature people. It is something that either flows from deep within us, or does not flow at all. Yet it is something that thrills the heart of God.

Interesting contrast between Elisha's rejection of the gift in the First Reading, and Jesus' acceptance of the Samaritan's gratitude. Perhaps the contrast is between the 9 who focus on the Gift, and the 1 who is able to raise his eyes and see the Giver.
The ox recognizes his owner and the donkey the one who feeds it, But my people do not recognize me.
He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 
There were many lepers in Israel, yet only Naaman the Syrian was cured.  
The tragedy of Israel who fails to recognize its Master when he comes.

Elisha refuses the gift, Jesus accepts gratitude, because here there is something greater than Elisha, and Solomon, and the Temple. And we, I, am called to recognize this something greater, this Someone greater.

Jesus himself is a great example of someone who constantly acknowledges the Giver. Besides the Our Father, the gospels have preserved two explicit prayers of Jesus, and each begins with thanksgiving:
I thank you Father, for having hidden these things...
And before raising Lazarus:
Father, I thank you for having heard me. I know you always hear me.
Jesus constantly makes petitions, the Father always hears his prayers, but before asking for anything, Jesus, it would seem, turns to his Father. For Jesus, the Giver is more precious than the gift. He is the trasure, and in him the Son's heart abides. And the gift is given as well:
Seek first the kingdom of heaven and its justice, and all these things will be given you as well. (Mt 6:33)
And then also His example of thanking the Father in every circumstance. The Samaritan came to thank Jesus for his cure. But shall we thank God only when we receive something good from him? Paul is very clear:
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:18)
Why? simply because there is nothing we have not received. "Faith in One God means living in thanksgiving." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 224) "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor 4:7) "What shall I render to the Lord for his bounty to me?" (Ps 116:12)

This is very radical: we are called to thank God in every circumstance of our lives: in joy and sorrow, in happiness and pain. Often we say, "Everything is going fine, thanks be to God." Fr M.J. Mathew used to tell us: learn to say, "Everything is not fine, thanks be to God." Hamdulillah. Barukh ha Shem! Learn to live life as gift. Learn to live in thanksgiving. Like Francis of Assisi:
The story is told of Francis of Assisi and his companion Brother Masseo, who were journeying from town to town in France. As usual they begged for their food, Francis taking one street and Masseo another. Francis was small of stature and clearly a beggar and he earned only a few scraps of dry bread. But Brother Masseo was tall and handsome and he receive large portions of fresh bread. They met outside the town near a fountain to share the alms they had been given. Masseo took note of what was lacking in their meal: cloth, knife, house, table, servants. But Francis could only exclaim joyfully: We are not worthy of this vast treasure. For we have bread, a table of stone, clear water, and God to serve us." (Joan Puls, Every Bush is Burning 2) 
So we thank God
in every circumstance
and raise our eyes to the Giver
thanking him most especially for the Gift of his Son and the Gift of his Spirit.
Our minds hurt against this Mystery, but thanks we can learn to give.

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