“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” ~ St Ambrose
With his December 7th Feast Day on the horizon, we kick things off with a quote from the great Bishop, Doctor and spiritual confidant of Saint Augustine as well as his mother Saint Monica ~ not to mention the Patron Saint of beekeepers, the “honey tongued doctor” himself Saint Ambrose as we embark upon readings that are naturally steeped in a message of praise and thanksgiving. But there were of in fact countless quotes from the Communion of Saints that could have served as a lead-in to today’s reflection. After all, profound gratitude Is a virtue shared by all the canonized. And before I forget, I’d like to wish you all a happy and joyful Thanksgiving Day, with a special shout out to the modern day saints in my life; you know who you are.
Today’s readings begin with a short passage from Sirach (50:22-24) followed by 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 wherein Paul encourages the people of Corinth to praise and bless God, “who in every way does great things; who exalts our days from birth, and deals with us according to his mercy.” The passage closes with a note of reassurance as it pertains to God’s love for us. Paul says he will “sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It’s our Gospel Message today however (Luke 17:11-19)) which perhaps resonates most powerfully with the theme of thanksgiving, for it is here that we revisit the cleansing of the 10 lepers. “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asks the lone leper who returns to give praise and thanks to Him, telling the man to “rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Once again Jesus uses physical healing as a means of teaching, in this instance underscoring our need, or “duty” as Saint Ambrose liked to say, to pause and give thanks to our Lord. For everything. For without him we are nothing.
There’s a woman who sits directly behind me at daily mass who every day, during the consecration, the most holiest moment of the mass, whispers a prayer. “Thank You Jesus” you can hear her say softly, perfect and beautiful in its simplicity. And yet the fact of the matter is, our God is so loving that he considers it an act of Thanksgiving on our part to celebrate the Eucharist, this despite the fact that it was His Son who died for us.
As I sat in a full church this Thanksgiving morning looking around at all the grace-filled and humble people I am blessed to have in my life, it dawned on me that they are in fact the 10th leper, returning to give thanks to God before beginning their Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends. First things first. Or as Blessed Solanus Casey once said, “Thank God ahead of time.”
Again I wish you all a very blessed Thanksgiving, and as Advent rapidly approaches, let us all prepare for the coming of our Savior with a repentant, joyful, hopeful and yes, a very grateful heart.
“Father all-powerful, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite; as we come before you in Thanksgiving Day with gratitude for your kindness, open our hearts to have concern for every man, woman and child, so that we may share your gifts in loving service.” ~ Amen