Remembering to be Grateful
“… One of them, realizing that he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voic; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, ‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’ Then he said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.'” (Lk 17:15-19)
This story of Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers reminds us of the importance of expressing gratitude for the gifts we have received. I admit, I’m not very good at doing that as often as I should. Life gets so busy and there are so many pressing things that must be done, that days can go by and suddenly I realize that I never got that “Thank you” card sent or that phone call made. So if I owe you a thank you, please know that I have sent it many times mentally and in my prayers. I’m just not at all good at actually getting the stamp onto the envelop and the letter written to go with it.
Still, the reading is a reminder that in our relationship with God, it’s also important to express our gratitude. God doesn’t need us to say thanks, we need to say thanks. To the extent that we look at things with a spirit of gratitude, we are more able to deal with the hard times and challenges of life. None of us gets through life without experiencing them. They’re necessary if we’re to grow in wisdom and grace along with age.
One of the things I’ve learned in life is that I can choose how I will respond to the unexpected, especially the unpleasant unexpected things that happen. I can react with anger, frustration, jealousy, rage, … or I can try to smile (even through tears), laugh, forgive, wait patiently to see what good thing is coming next, etc. My immediate reaction is not necessarily going to be my final one, I’ve learned. When the negative ones jump up first, I can choose to set them aside and focus on the positive ones. It’s not easy when the really hard things happen – things like illness, injury, loss of jobs or loved ones. But at those times it’s especially important. Only by opening to the gift of God’s presence in those moments can we allow God to act freely and bring good out of them.
When I was much younger, I read a book called Praise the Lord Anyway, by Frances Gardner Hunter. The premise of the book was that God wants us to be joyful and grateful, even when we can’t see what good can possibly come of the situation in which we find ourselves. It’s good advice and even scriptural. St Paul tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” (Phil 4:4)
As I go about my work this week, I pray that I’ll remember to be grateful and joyful as I receive God’s gifts and the challenges that life brings to me. Whatever they may be, experience tells me that God will be there to bring good out of them if I just keep my heart open to hear and be grateful. May the same true for you.