What does it mean to be grateful? We all, perhaps, have had some thought or memory of a time when we felt so grateful to God: For, perhaps, a firstborn child, for a recovery from a long illness, when we had a visit or when someone called us when we felt lonely or alone, getting a job after a long time searching and worrying about it. Just being able to make ends meet once more! The whatevers of gratitude, I am sure, are as many as the people that are here today.
In the Gospel this weekend we heard proclaimed the gratitude in the ten lepers cured of their diseases. Now, we need to understand something about leprosy. When anyone became a leper in Jesus' day, the Jews believed that it was because of their sin that they had contracted the disease. They were expelled from the community and had to often live in caves like animals. It meant isolation, a destroyed reputation, and a wait for death as their flesh fell off bit by bit. In other words, a horrible, slow, lonely death away from family and friends. Then to be suddenly cured of the disease meant that not only their body was cured, but their reputation and family connection was restored. God somehow forgave them and gave them a second chance at life.
Naaman in the Second Book of Kings offered a gift to Elisha the prophet in gratitude for the return to health. But, in today's Gospel, only one of the ten lepers that were cured returned to thank Jesus for curing him. Folks, Jesus has cured us over and over again from our sins-Hasn't He? He has restored our souls back to health over and over again. Yet, are we growing in gratitude for His great mercy and forgiveness and love? Many Catholics today, however, are unfortunately more like the ungrateful nine who were cured but did not return to give thanks.
Since last Sunday's Mass, how often have we thanked God? How Many times? Even when you attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, how often is the thought of gratefulness is in your heart? It should always be there because the Holy Mass is the perfect means of giving thanks for all of God's blessing, whether it may even be being cured of some serious illness, or more importantly for the cure we received as we confessed our sins.
The very word Eucharist, another word we use for Mass, means thanksgiving. The first purpose of sacrifice is to give glory to God-and linked with giving praise- is to give thanks to God. Remember how the grateful leper returned to Christ Who had healed him, "praising God with a loud voice; and then fell at the feet of Jesus, giving Him thanks and praise." This is exactly what we are given the opportunity to do in every single Holy Mass, and most especially in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in which we reverently receive Our Lord kneeling in Holy Communion.
Notice how often the word "thanks" occurs in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: In the Gloria "we give You thanks...for Your glory...." Often the Collect includes a word of thanks for the feast or mystery. The Preface begins: "It is truly meet and just, right and profitable, for us, at all times, and in all places to give thanks to Thee, O Lord." Right before the Consecration, the priest recalls that Jesus took bread into His holy and venerable hands and after lifting up His eyes to heaven, He gave thanks to His Heavenly Father, and likewise the Chalice.
When we receive Holy Communion, we know we should praise and adore Our Lord, and we should also thank Him as we do in our prayer after Communion when we pray, "Grant, O Lord, that we may always be grateful for the sacramental gift of Your Most Sacred Body and Blood that we have just received."
Yes, Grant, O Lord, that we may always grow in gratitude for all Your gifts-spiritual and material. Grant, O Lord, that we may always express our thanks as Jesus did so often. Grant, O Lord, that we have the spirit of gratefulness shown by the cured leper in the Gospel today. Grant, O Lord, that we may express our thanks in and through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass-the most perfect way of saying, " Thank You in gratitude to Almighty God."
I am sure you would agree that we cannot thank the Lord enough for all He has done for us. Let us never cease thanking Him. If we want to be happy, we must be grateful-because it is so true, the happiest people in the world are the ones who are most grateful. We all can possess this happiness if we grow in our gratitude to God. As Catholics, we cannot do it any better that attending and praying the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass-the most perfect way of saying, "Thank You to God!"
Just being around happy people reminds us that we need to be grateful to Almighty God for all the ways He has shown us His love and mercy. They also convict us if we have, at times, grown slack in our attitude of thankfulness.
Lord Jesus, we thank You and we praise You for the gift of our Catholic Faith, our lives, and for all we have and are through You!