I was in the traffic on Montano, and I could see a woman wanted into my lane, I waved her in with a smile. She moved into the lane and…that was it. No thank you, no acknowledgement of my kindness. I sat there irritated, thinking I should of left her sitting in her lane.
Later that day I was in the checkout line at a store, I said hello to the clerk and received a clipped “hi.” As he handed me the change and I said in the cheeriest voice “thank you.” No response and he began cashing out the next customer. Anger, evil thoughts crept into my head once again. You know the one “I pay your salary.” I was irritated.
What was striking about that day was that it was usual. I wake up, kiss my wife goodbye take my son to school, pass by St. Michael and look at that tower, go to work, speak to the doctor about a health issue, complain about a headache, nothing out of the usual, except I focused on two people, I felt, who did not showing appreciation.
As it was while I was praying, that I realized my hypocrisy. I went through the usual checklist of requests I present to God - healing for this, the well being of that, peace here, and especially that day patience. I finished with: thank you Lord for all the blessings Amen. Here I was irritated by someone else’s not saying thank you, yet I was just as unthankful.
I said thank you for all the blessings, however, it seemed like a demand letter to God, the thank you at the end was businesslike, with a rote “Sincerely, Daniel.” I sat back and wondered – Am I truly thankful. Do I realize what I am thankful for?
In that day, of my normal, everyday life, I did not take the time to say one silent “thank you father” that I was kissing my wife, taking my son to school, speaking to the doctor, or even complaining about a headache.
I was like one of those 9 lepers in today’s Gospel. Jesus enters a village, and from a distance 10 Lepers see him. They call out to him for healing. “Master have mercy on us.” As always, Jesus responds, he heals them. They run off, I assume jumping for joy. Yet only one, turns back.
He runs back to Christ, falls at his feet in gratitude. Jesus is surprised that only one says thank you. Now I am sure that the other nine were appreciative. I imagine they waved from a distance, yelling thank you Jesus as they ran off. Their lives had changed, they needed to show friends and family their new lives.
Reading this you wonder “how could they be so ungrateful.” But is it really different from what we do? I not talking about the “thank yooooou Lord” when we receive that rebate from the IRS or we avoid the speed radar trap. Or when we swerve and miss being in a traffic accident and say “thank you, Lord.” I mean a sincere message from the heart, when we look at the gifts in our daily lives, and whisper silently “thank you Lord.”
At times, faith often falls into the action reaction pattern. We become conditioned to expect an equal or greater amount of what we put in. A vending machine, I put in something of value, like a prayer, and then expect to receive something of worth in return. And truthfully, it is easy to be thankful when times are good.
Yet even when times are good, nothing we have is really our own. Everything, everything is a gift from God. We come into this life naked, bringing nothing, and we leave this life naked, taking nothing away. Everything is a gift, and God keeps on giving. God is constantly working in our lives. With each step we take, God supporting, holding, guiding, and loving.
Yet we go about our lives focusing on the next goal, accomplishment or just getting through the day, and we ignore the gifts in our path. And if we are too busy to recognize those gifts, how can we be truly thankful? Yet, like the leper, when we realize what has happened, what is around us, we are transformed. A sense of knowing that somehow our lives will never be the same.
Notice the words of Jesus, for the nine lepers they were made clean. But to the one who came back in thankfulness, Jesus tells him “get up, your faith has made you well.” The Leper understood that with this one encounter with Christ, he would never be the same. He was made well and he falls at the feet of Christ in thanks.
In Christ, we are given something more, more than the everyday, more than simple healing. Our lives become well. We are filled with this love of Christ and everything, everyone, every moment becomes sacred – and thankfulness does not become rote, it becomes lived.
Now for some of us, it may be difficult to give thanks. Are you kidding me, my spouse, partner, parent, child, sibling, or friend was taken from me – I fill beaten and bruised. I lost my job and cannot pay the bills – I feel as if the world has spit upon me. This relationship has left me naked to the world, can’t you see my pain. This illness has left me nailed to the wall, I am tired, I have no room for thanks.
But it is in those places where we feel no gratitude; it is at those places where we find the one who knows. It would be easy to sell our faith if we were promised wealth, power, riches, freedom from illness, problem free lives, marriages that never fail, people that never disagree and that we would given everything we need to make us happy.
Our relationship with Christ does not grant you immunity from pain or trouble. Each one of us will get sick, suffer pain, we may grow old alone or fall victim to cancer or tragedy. In much the same way as those who do not believe in Christ. Our faith does not make the pain go away.
However, there is one large difference. When we feel naked, beaten, spit upon, bloody, bruised and nailed to the wall, Christ has been there. Everything that happens to us in this life has happened to him. And it is not once upon a time, it is now.
Faith in Christ does not mean your life will be perfect, it means that Christ is with you always. Our thankfulness is found in that Christ is always working in our lives, he is walking every step, feeling every pain, sharing in our laughter, comforting when we do not realize the comfort and allowing us to grow when we need to step forward.
Our thankfulness should recognize that we have hope in every situation. God is in unexpected place, grace and power from unexpected people. Joy conquering despair. God in the unexpected, in the simple, in the mundane, and in the painful. It is said that we are born with two diseases. Life from which we die, and hope in Christ, which assures us that the first disease is not terminal.
A man in his 30’s was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had a wife and small children. He was determined to travel to Lourdes, to find healing for his cancer. Through this ordeal, his wife was frightened and angry; she felt that both God and the doctors had let them down. Yet Mike hoped and prayed he would be healed. He traveled to Lourdes, and upon returning realized there would be no miracle. Yet he was at peace. Instead of weeping in rage, he felt a strange sense of peace and comfort wash over him.
On the trip, he sat with other pilgrims; he prayed with thousands and prayed alone. He ate, he breathed, he was transformed by things and those around him. He still gets scared and angry at not being able to see his kids grow or have his wife next to him. He does not know why he was not cured, but has never been so grateful for his life, family, and church. He believes a miracle took place on that trip. He silently thanks the Lord, each day for all the gifts in his life. I believe Christ responds to Mike, like he responded to the Leper, “Get up Mike, your faith has made you well."
People are to be loved and things are to be used, and never the opposite. Life is precious and fleeting and fragile, and we are blessed by a God who stays by each one of us, each moment of the day. A God who places gifts, both large and small, around each one of us, who has blessed our lives without many of us, realizing it. Everyday gifts truly worth of thanks.
Take a moment, close your eyes and think of something or someone in your life that you are thankful for. Someone who showed you kindness or love. Someone who has walked a journey with you held your hand or just stood by your side. And say a silent thank you Father, Now listen for that voice that spoke to the leper, that spoke to Mike saying, my Child, I long for your voice, and now your faith has made you well.