Thankfulness to "Notice" God's Graciousness
The Ten Lepers
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
In 2008 a young Australian woman, Hailey Bartholomew, found that she wasn’t enjoying life. She described herself as feeling lost and stuck on a treadmill. It was almost inexplicable. She was married to a man she loved and had beautiful children who held her heart. So why was she feeling so down about her life? Hailey sought the counsel of a nun, who advised her to spend time each day reflecting on something for which she was grateful. Hailey began a project called “365grateful”. Every day she took a photograph of something for which she was grateful.
It changed her life, for it allowed her to see things she had never noticed [notice the word ‘notice’ for it will recur quite often in this reflection]. Hailey had always thought of her husband as unromantic. One day she took a picture of him serving up dinner, the thing which she was grateful for that day. She noticed for the first time that the largest portion of pie was placed on her plate. She realized that the largest portion was always placed on her plate and that this was one small but profound way her husband showed his care for her. Hailey had found mothering a “boring job”, but as she took photos of her children holding out their hands to her, playing and exploring, she discovered how much joy and wonder there was in her world. Through the art of gratitude Hailey found herself lifted out of her rut and celebrating life.
Thankfulness, we discover, is a measure of faith. A measure of our dependence on God, and of our own humility. Today’s Gospel concretizes this wonderful gesture through a narrative about the ten lepers. Of the ten, only one came back to thank Jesus after healing them from leprosy. Interestingly, the one person who came back was a Samaritan – an outsider from the Jewish circle! The other nine might not have found the need to be grateful, but remember, Jesus did this as a free act of kindness. Something which the other nine may not have noticed, but an act of God’s intervention to human affairs. If the other nine had faith in Jesus (last Sunday’s theme), they would have realized Jesus’ healing power at work at that very moment in their lives. Without such power, they may have remained a leper – helpless, discriminated against and probably hopeless.
In the midst of a very challenging economy and society, our priorities are very much challenged. Because of this, we tend to ignore and fail to notice the grace of God at work in our lives. But come to think of it, isn’t this also the very time and moment to recognize God’s help and providence? Shouldn’t we, all the more, hang on to Him as we are being torn apart by these challenges? Shouldn’t we come to Him as our faith is tested and our connection with God being cut off? Today’s difficulties could serve as reminders that only in God can we find true happiness. God remains to be a loving Father. He provides us with channels of graces in order that we may come to appreciate His presence in our midst … to be able to notice His almighty hand at work in our lives.
Again and again, Jesus waits for us to come to Him in humility to thank Him for everything that He gives and presents to us each day. He invites us to, at least, notice in every aspect and events of our daily lives, His loving hand. In our private moments, we can simply close our eyes and go to our “private room” our inner self and quietly be open to God’s grace. Allow Jesus to touch us and be moved by His touch in gratitude.
The German mystic and philosopher, Meister Eckhart, once wrote: “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that will suffice.” At this point, we are here for that exact same reason: to pray those words, and to make them matter. So taking a cue from Meister Eckhart, let’s make this occasion more than just a fulfillment of an obligation; more than just an excuse to take a break from the seemingly busy schedules we have at work or at home. Make this moment a kind of prayer, an act of thanksgiving.
As the day unfolds, carry that prayer with you. Live it. Give it. This invitation, after all, is a celebration, a time for giving – giving thanks. It doesn’t have to end at a certain point. In fact, it doesn’t have to end even after this Mass – God’s gifts certainly won’t. Every beat of your heart affirms an unmistakable mystery: God has given you life. Extravagant, wonderful, painful, challenging life.
The beauty of this narrative is that it acknowledges our sinfulness, weaknesses, and our vulnerabilities. In acknowledging them, it calls us forth to God through His grace and love in gratitude. Let’s strive to remind ourselves of God’s blessings, wherever we find them, however they come to us. And give thanks to God for them, every day in every moment.
Let this be our prayer:
Prayer for Strength
Similar to what Hailey did in the story, we can make our own version of the "365/6grateful." If taking pictures is a bit of breach of privacy to other people, you can simply write down things to thank God for each day. Put it in a jar for 365/6 days then at the end of the year, open it up to recognize how much God has loved you and has walked with you throughout your year's journey. Make it your prayer.
Prayer after all is, "to encounter God in the depths of one's inner self and "notice" God's love stretching or moving us as He wills."