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November 28, 2002

“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”

Thanksgiving Day

(Luke 17:11-19)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Thank you for coming to Mass, and thank you for all you do for one another, for the church, and most of all, for God and for Jesus. I just want to say a word of encouragement that we send up prayers of gratitude to God, that--

Whatever we're going through, we give thanks to God;

Whatever we're suffering, we give thanks to God;

Whatever we have to endure, we give thanks to God;

Whatever ordeals the future brings, we give thanks to God.

Our attitude should be that of the mystic who said, "To all that has been, Thank you; for all that is to come, Yes."

In the John's Gospel, the only prayer Jesus ever says up until the night before he dies is in chapter 11, when he stands in front of the tomb of Lazarus and says, "Thank you God for hearing me." Jesus is always grateful.

In this Gospel, when ten lepers meet Jesus, call out "Jesus, Master, have pity on us," when Jesus heals them, and only one comes back to say thank you, the one who is a hated Samaritan, the enemy, Jesus seems puzzled and lost. He cannot comprehend our lack of gratitude. "Where are the others? Why haven't they returned to give thanks to God?" I wonder if he asks that about us.

If you or I had done all that God has done for us and for humanity, and yet received such ingratitude in return, we would be hurt and resentful and bitter and walk away, saying, "Well, I'll never do anything nice for those people again!"

But that's not the way God is. God is always helping us and healing us and guiding us. God has done so much for each one of us, and continues to do so much for us right up to this moment, and will continue to do so much for us.

God loves us. God creates us. God gives us family and friends and relatives. God gives us this beautiful creation. God gives us the gift of life, the gift of this day, the gift of each breath, the gift of animals and clouds and rain and snow and the sun and moon. God gives us this Eucharist. God gives us Jesus, the gift of peace. We have much to be grateful for.

Gratitude is one of the key ingredients in the spiritual life.

If we are angry, we can move toward gratitude and name whatever it is we are grateful for. If we are sick, we can move toward gratitude for the people who have helped us through life. If we have been hurt, we can move toward gratitude and name all the kind, loving things God has done for us. If we are stuck in despair or boredom or gossip or fear or depression or frustration or sadness or poverty or loneliness or resentment, we can move toward gratitude and count our blessings and discover the peace and joy of Jesus.

God must feel hurt by our ingratitude, our indifference and our lack of love, but God still loves us, still helps us, still heals us, and still guides us. So today we say "Thank you, God," and pray that we might always be grateful.

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