Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gratitude


Imagine that when you go home today you find an envelope leaning against your front door.  You open this envelope and inside you find a $100 dollar bill.  If you are like me, you would be pretty excited.  Wow, free money.  I wonder where it came from.  No note, no name, nothing to tell you where the money came from, just 100 bucks, a gift for you.  Now, imagine that tomorrow the same thing happens, wow 2 days in a row.  Imagine this happens for a week, for a month, for a year, imagine if you received this 100 dollar bill every day for 10 years.  Would your attitude ever change?  I suppose I would start to take that 100 dollars for granted.  I might just get used to it being there, I doubt I would look at it with the same freshness and enthusiasm that I did on that first day.  The objective state of things would be the exact same, you would have received a gift, but unless that gift remains ever new, our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes have a tendency to change.
Of course, I don’t know of anyone who gets a free 100 dollar bill every day of their lives.  But, I do know that we all receive much more valuable gifts.  Today we woke up.  Not everyone received this gift today.  Today we received the gift of life, but maybe we just take that for granted.  For all those who are parents, today you received, again, the gift of your children.  Not everyone has received this gift, yet maybe we take this for granted.  Married couples, today you received, again, the gift of a loving spouse.  Not everyone has received this gift, yet maybe you take this for granted.  Today we have all received amazing gifts: life, family, friends, jobs, houses, cars, food, you name it. 
Our readings today teach us about gratitude.  I cannot overstate how important gratitude really is.  Being thankful should mark the lives of every Christian disciple.  As Christians we recognize that everything we have, everything we are, comes from God.  Without God we would not have life, we would not have our abilities, we would have absolutely nothing.  And yet, how easy it is to lose sight of this, how easy it is to just get used to the gifts that God gives us.  Once we do that, life gets pretty boring, and can even get quite burdensome.
Just think of some of the daily struggles that we all have.  Think about the fights, squabbles, disagreements, and tensions that are a part of everyday family life.  Now imagine what would happen if everyone in the family awoke every morning praising and thanking God for the amazing people he has placed in our lives.  I’m not saying every tension would go away, but I think our houses would be more peaceful.  Imagine what life would be like if we awoke every morning simply amazed to be alive.  What if we embraced every day like a gift, never knowing how many days we might have on this earth, would we live differently?  To the person who has gratitude every day is amazing.
Today in the gospel we hear about a person with gratitude.  The Lord Jesus has pity on 10 lepers and he heals them of their affliction.  Now, I would imagine that all 10 were quite appreciative.  I’m sure that all 10 were glad that they were no longer sick, no longer exiles, no longer the outcasts from society.  I’m sure that all 10 would agree that they were better off having met Jesus.  But, only one returns to the Lord, only one comes back to worship him. 
Isn’t this story really our story?  God has given us amazing gifts, which is why we are here today.  We gather here at the Holy Mass to worship the God who has loved us and given us so many good things.  Sometimes people ask: why do we have to go to Mass?  There is no better answer than gratitude.  At this Mass, and at every Mass, we have an opportunity to thank God for all the amazing ways he has blessed us.  Hopefully this experience of worship fills us with a renewed sense of gratitude for all the amazing ways God has blessed us.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Increase our Faith Lord!

27th Sunday of OT Year C 2013:
Today in the Gospel we hear one of the most beautiful, most powerful, and most necessary prayers recorded in the whole gospel.  The apostles look to Jesus and they simply say: Lord, increase my faith.
What is faith?  Have you ever stopped to think what it is?  We all know it is important.  In fact, I would say that it is the most essential and basic quality necessary for Christian living.  Without faith, there can be no Christian.  With faith, anyone can be a Christian.  Our first reading even says that the just one will live because of his faith.  So faith leads to live; therefore, it is important for us to know what faith is, and what it is not.
First, faith is not hard work or determination.  Faith is not something we give ourselves.  Faith is not simply an idea.  Faith is not just a decision we make.  For most people, faith is a decision to believe something.  Normally when we talk about faith, we mean that people have decided to believe in Jesus, that we acknowledge that his is the son of God.  But, for too many people, faith remains something that is merely cerebral, faith stays in the mind, it doesn’t extend to the whole of the human person.  This is a shallow vision of faith, and I daresay that it may not be sufficient when life gets tough.  When we are facing difficulties the idea that Jesus is God may not be enough to get us through.
Faith is much more.  From the theological tradition we know that faith is actually a virtue.  In fact, it is one of the three theological virtues.  Both of these words are important for us.
First, it is theological.  This does not mean that it is a book, or something to study.  Rather, this means that faith comes from God.  When we say that it is a theological virtue, we mean that it is a gift that is infused within us by God.  Faith is not something we give ourselves; faith is not the result of our hard work or determination; the very fact that we have faith is a gift that comes from God.  And we know that he has given it to us, because it comes from the sacraments.  Every one of us, on the day of our baptism, received the precious gift of faith. 
Second, it is a virtue.  Virtues are qualities or characteristics in a person that have grown and developed over time.  No one is born instantaneously virtuous, we all have to grow in virtues.  These are our habits or our dispositions.  Faith is a virtue, it grows over time, it becomes more and more a part of who we are. 
So, faith is a gift that comes from God, but it is a virtue that must grow over time.  We received this gift on the day of our baptism, but we also ask Christ, as the apostles did, increase our faith.  St. Paul has some beautiful words for Timothy, which seem to work well in our desire to grow in our faith: fan into flame the gift of God you received. 
My friends, we have all received this precious gift of faith, but do we fan it to flame?  Do we thank God every day for the gift of faith?  Do we pray every day asking God to increase our faith?  Do we make faithful use of the sacraments, especially Confession and Eucharist, so that God can deepen the gift of faith within us?  Do we read Sacred Scripture, help the poor, have a daily life of prayer, seek ways to grow in goodness and love?  Faith is a gift that comes from God, but we are called to fan it into a great flame that will guide and strengthen us no matter what we might face in life.

Today we gather, as we always do, to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Perhaps there is not greater place for us to whisper the prayer of the apostles.  Right here at the Mass the Lord comes to us in his body and blood, right here we see Jesus, and we can ask him: Lord, increase my faith.