There was a 96 year old nun named Sr. Mary who was becoming ill and her body was worn-out. As she was giving thanks to God for all the blessings that he had bestowed on her life, mother superior came into her room and advised Sr. Mary to take a shot of whiskey three times a day, in order to relax her. However, not to be lured into worldly pleasures, she huffily declined. But mother superior knew the elderly sister loved milk. So she instructed the sisters in the kitchen to spike the milk three times a day. Eventually, Sr. Mary approached her final hour. As several sisters gathered around her at her bedside, the mother superior asked Sr. Mary, “Do you have any last words to tell us.” "Oh, yes," she replied. "Never sell that cow!"
The gospel this Sunday is the familiar one about ten lepers being healed, but only one returning to give thanks to Jesus. As with any gift, Jesus’ healing them went beyond their expectations, was freely given by Jesus, and established a unique relationship between Jesus and the ten lepers. But only one acknowledges that relationship by giving thanks. The parable reminds us that it is not enough to cry to God for help (as did the lepers); it is not even enough to experience God’s healing action. We are meant to acknowledge God’s gracious activity on our behalf by giving God thanks (“he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him”) and worship (“returned, glorifying God in a loud voice”). Gratitude was not necessary for the healing (all ten were healed!). God’s saving activity does not depend on us. The gratitude was necessary, however, for God’s gracious deed to be acknowledged and proclaimed, announcing that God has acted. Gratitude helps make known God’s mighty deeds. Thus the ten lepers exemplify aspects of our relationship with God: acknowledgment of need (“Have pity on us”), obedience (“Go...’...as they were going”), and reception of divine mercy (“they were cleansed”). The Samaritan leper demonstrates another aspect this relationship: only when he returns to glorify God and thank Jesus, does Jesus reveal that he has, in fact, been saved. For us, as for the Samaritan leper, salvation is revealed and experienced in worship and thanksgiving. Salvation, worship, and thanksgiving are closely connected. Both events—God’s saving activity and our thankful worship—cement a giver-receiver relationship with God. God freely offers us salvation; worship and thanksgiving manifest within the community our acknowledgment and reception of salvation. Worship and thanksgiving are our yes to God’s gifts to us.
We see with the ten lepers that all of them were cured of their disease but the question is which lepers really left with a “true healing?” We can say that the one that returned to give him thanks was the only one that really had an encounter with the Lord and really knew what had occurred. My brothers and sisters how many times do we ourselves give thanks to the Lord for all that have been given to us? Sometimes we fall into the mentality that since I worked for what I have why should I give thanks or we just might think of the Lord once a year around our Thanksgiving Day tables but we must realize and look around us and see all the blessings he gives us each and every day. Just think of this day. First of all we were able to get out of bed and come to church. We were able to arrive here freely without any persecutions because of our beliefs. Most of us that are here are probably healthy or at least healthy enough to have left our homes and be here this morning/evening. As we leave here after Mass we will probably get into our cars, go out to eat, make dinner, visit a relative or friend or many other things that we might take for granted, how many times do we thank God for these blessings and the many more that he gives us?
Also imagine also the great gift we have when we come here together to participate in this sacrifice of the Mass. First of all as we enter this church we should be thankful for the beautiful worship space that we have. For the wonderful music ministry in which God has given the talent to our musicians to enhance our liturgy. As we begin to hear the words from scripture we don’t believe it’s simply reading literature out loud but that God does speak through us through scripture. Just imagine as you heard the Gospel today it spoke differently to you three years ago when it was read at Mass and it will speak differently when we heard it again in three years from now or even if we were to pick it up next week we would find something different or another thought would come to mind because it truly is the living word. Again it is truly a gift from God that we should be truly thankful for.
As we are about to approach the liturgy of the Eucharist, just focusing on the word Eucharist which derives from the greek “eucharistia” meaning thanksgiving. This meal that we are about to celebrate is truly a thanksgiving meal. This thanksgiving meal is more valuable than any fancy meal that we could ever attend. Here the bread and wine that as the community we offer will become the actual flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must also to realize that this is also a sacrificial meal. We actually participate in this one action that occurred on Calvary in which our Lord was crucified and his blood was shed and he became the victim. We share as a community the flesh of this victim but this victim is not just dead flesh but we are receiving the victim that has died, is risen from the dead and now is seated at the right hand of the father. Again this is a gift beyond comparison to anything we could ever receive. Then as we return to our pews after receiving communion should be that time for thanksgiving. Which could be done in so many different ways. That could be through the music that is played or just sitting quietly and meditating on what has just occurred.
St. Francis of Assisi composed a famous canticle that is recited quite often and it’s a long canticle but beautifully composed. I like to leave you with the first few lines that we should constantly recite from our lips in thanksgiving to God, “Most High, all powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing.”
Living Liturgy, p. 226