28th Sunday of OT Year C 2016:
Our readings these last couple of weeks have been teaching us about the attitude of the Christian person. I know that it is easy to talk about actions: we need to be kind, loving, just, holy. But, attitude is so much more difficult. Attitude is the internal, action is the external. I know that I can find it much easier to control the external, but the internal is tough. Last week Jesus taught us about humility: when you have done all that was commanded say, I am an unprofitable servant, I have only done what was commanded. This attitude of humility ensures that Christ will remain the center of our live and the heart of what we do. Having an attitude of humility is essential if we want to be followers of Christ, because Christ was humble and he calls us to follow him.
Today we hear about another important attitude, the attitude of thanksgiving. In the first reading, and in the gospel, we hear about the healing of lepers. In both readings, God has pity on these suffering souls and brings them healing. In the first reading, Naaman is healed by plunging down into the water. In the gospel, the lepers are healed by begging Jesus for pity, for mercy. In both readings, we hear about the joy of the person who was healed. Naaman is ready to give a large gift to the prophet, the Samaritan comes back to praise Christ, “glorifying God in a loud voice.” These two should be great examples for us. The proper response to the gifts of God is thanksgiving. An essential attitude for the Christian man or woman is an attitude of thanks.
But, this attitude is not simple, and it’s not automatic. Parents out there, how many times do you have to instruct your kids: “now what do you say?” For whatever reason, gratitude is not natural to us, we have to learn it, grow in it. But, when we do, it can change our lives. Just think about some of the things that can be a source of tension in your life. Family. Sometimes we can get into disagreements, fights, resentment. There can be a lot of negative tension in our families. Imagine if everyone in the family had an attitude of thanksgiving about everyone else in the family, might that not change everything? Jobs. Many people struggle with tensions at work. What about being grateful for the chance to earn an income, being grateful for the chance to interact with people in the workforce, grateful for the chance to do something meaningful? Many people are frustrated with politics. But, I am certainly grateful to live in this great nation. Is our nation perfect? Certainly not. But, it is still a great nation, for which we have much to give thanks.
So, my contention is that the attitude of thanksgiving can change our daily circumstances in ways you can’t believe. Without actually changing the situations of our lives, if we are specifically and consciously thankful for the good things of life, the negative and difficult things become so much easier to deal with. Make thanksgiving an important part of you daily lives and you will not be sorry.
But, we can start by following the example of Naaman and the Samaritan. Naaman was cleansed by washing in the Jordan. We have been cleansed by washing in the waters of baptism. Naaman wanted to give something to thank the God of Israel. Instead he takes dirt. What is that all about? He wanted the land of Israel so that he could offer sacrifice on the land. We have been washed in baptism, and we offer sacrifice too. Right here at Mass we offer the sacrifice of Christ. In the gospel, Jesus has pity on the leper, and the Samaritan returns glorifying God in a loud voice. We have received the mercy of God. I’m conscious of that every time I go to confession. In that sacrament we receive the mercy and compassion of Christ. What is the response? To glorify God with a loud voice. Again, we do that right here. Mass is the place for us to be thankful to God. Mass is not about what we can receive, Mass is about what we give, namely giving God thanks for all his blessings. Mass can be the most powerful teacher of gratitude we have. By learning an attitude of thanksgiving, the mass can literally change our lives.