Monday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“Loose lips sink ships.”  That’s a saying that I learned somewhere in my early elementary school life.  I don’t think I fully understood what it meant at the time – all I appreciated was that it told me to keep my mouth shut.  But as I’ve lived and matured, I know very well that frivolous talk can be hurtful and even dangerous.  Our gift of speech is an important one: through it we communicate with each other and it is the basis of our being able to work and live in society.  But using speech in the wrong way can cause a whole host of problems.  We’ve all probably been in the midst of that in some way at some time in our lives.

And so Saint Paul’s words to the Ephesians are probably good ones for us to hear today:

Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you,
as is fitting among holy ones,
no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place…

All of us, who are called to be God’s holy ones, have a very important responsibility to use our gift of speech wisely.  We must not engage in idle, frivolous, or even obscene speech, because this is out of place for those who follow the Lord.  But what I think is so important is what Saint Paul says needs to be on the lips of God’s holy ones – and that is thanksgiving.

Big deal, right, of course we can speak about thanksgiving.  But the Greek word that is translated “thanksgiving” here is eucharistia– and we all know what that means.  The Eucharist – which is our thanksgiving – is always to be on our lips.  So that’s the lens by which we ought always to view the words we say: are our words Eucharist?  Are they thanksgiving?  Because those are the only words we need to be saying.

Thanksgiving Day: People of Eucharist

Today’s readings

Several years ago now, my sister emailed me pictures of a storybook that my niece, Molly, wrote for a second grade school project.  It was a story about an unnamed boy and girl – but we might as well name them, because it was clear to me that the girl was the author and the boy was her brother Danny!  The boy and the girl were having a discussion, and later an argument, about what they wanted to be when they grew up.  At some point, they were called to dinner, and the table was set with their favorite meal: pizza and fries.  They both enjoyed the meal and cleaned their plates and the boy said, “I want more.”  He didn’t get more, of course, because his demand was rude, but the girl did, because she asked nicely and thanked her mother.  Then she told her brother, “Use your manners.”  The really scandalous part of this exchange is that I’ve heard the real girl demand things without using her manners on more than one occasion!

That little story provides a rich framework for what I want to talk about today, and it’s an interesting illustration of today’s Gospel reading.  That reading is scandalous too, because it seems that nine believers – people who should know how to be grateful to God – failed to express their gratitude over a miracle that literally gave them back the life that leprosy took away from them.  It’s almost unthinkable.  Maybe we can cut them a little slack, because when you look closely at the story, Jesus really didn’t say or do anything indicative of healing – all he did was say “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  Now, it was the priests’ job to take care of ritual purity, but I’m guessing they had seen priests about their illness in the past and were probably ignored, or even shunned in the name of ritual purity.  So I can see how they would have been confused, frustrated, and maybe even a little angry at Jesus’ response.  But they absolutely could not have been confused about the fact that they had been healed.  And yet the only one who thought to give thanks and praise to God was this other guy, a Samaritan – a foreigner and a religious outcast who wasn’t expected to know the religious etiquette that one should follow.

Maybe the most deeply scandalous part of this whole reading is not just that nine lepers forgot to thank Jesus.  I think the most scandalous part of this Gospel is that it really can be a kind of mirror of our own society in this day, and, yes, I’ll say it: even our own lives.  Because these days gratitude is not a common occurrence; more often our society gets caught up in entitlement – we deserve blessings, we have a right to grace and mercy.  Just as we think we have a right to everything in the whole world, we lay claim to God’s grace in ways that are deeply scandalous and even more than a little heretical.

Just like those ten lepers had no right to lay claim to Jesus’ healing powers, so we too have no right to lay claim to his grace and mercy.  Those things do not belong to us, and even more than that we are quite unable to earn them, even if we had a desire to earn them in the first place.  But here’s the really great thing that shatters the scandal: even though those lepers had no right to be healed, Jesus healed them anyway.  Even though we have no right to God’s grace and forgiveness for our many sins, he gives those things to us anyway, without a thought of doing otherwise.  As the saying goes, God is good, all the time.

And so the message today is that we have to decidedly leave behind our sinful attitudes of entitlement and embrace an attitude of gratitude.  And honestly, I think that can make us happier people.  Grateful people live differently.  Grateful people look for the blessing in every moment, they hunt for the grace constantly at work in their lives.  They are like radios which are powered on so that they can receive the broadcast.  When you’re grateful, it’s amazing how much more you seem to be blessed.  Only it’s obviously not that you’re blessed more; instead it’s that you’re more aware of the blessing.  Thankful people are happier with their lives, because they’re simply more aware of what God is doing, how God is leading them, and they feel the touch of God’s hand leading them through life.  Being grateful is a choice, but it’s an important choice worth making, it’s a choice that makes our lives richer and more beautiful every day.

As Catholics, we are a people who, at least liturgically, constantly choose to be grateful.  Eucharist, as we have been taught, is the Greek word for thanksgiving.  And so the Eucharist is the Thanksgiving feast par excellence.  Every time we gather to celebrate Mass, we remember that God in his infinite mercy sent his only Son to be our Savior.  He came into our world and walked among us, filling the earth with his most merciful presence.  He journeyed among us, a man like us in all things but sin.  His great love led him to bear the cross for our sake, dying the death we so richly deserved for our many sins.  And then he did the greatest thing possible: he burst out of the grave, breaking the chains of death, and rose to new life.  Because of this grace, we sinners have the possibility of everlasting life with God, the life we were created for in the first place.

Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember this awesome mystery.  Not only that, our Eucharist actually brings us to the hour of that grace, giving us once again a share in its blessing.  As a Eucharistic people, we Catholics are a people of gratitude.  That’s what defines us.

So how would a people defined by gratitude celebrate this Thanksgiving day?  Certainly we have made the best possible start: gathering for the Eucharist to give thanks for the presence of God and the grace he pours out on us.  Then we take that grace to our families’ own Thanksgiving feasts and beyond.  As we gather around the table today, maybe we can stop to reflect on God’s magnificent presence in our lives – in good times and in bad.  And then use that gratitude to make the world an awesome place – or at least our corner of it!

So we’re not like those nine lepers that somehow missed the grace and blessing that was happening right before their eyes.  On this day, we gather because we choose to be grateful.  On this day, before all the turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, we stand up and bear witness that our God is good all the time, that there is grace and blessing all around us, and we can see it if we choose to do so.  We grateful ones come into this holy place to show a watching world that we are who we say we are – a people of Eucharist – of thanksgiving not just on this day, but every day.  And we proclaim to the world that gratitude is the antidote for misery of entitlement, and it’s an attitude that can make the world a more blessed place.  Like the pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving, our gratitude can become the source of our survival through the hard times and the source of our joy in the good times.  May we never cease offer our gratitude to God, singing to him our songs of thanks and praise.

Thanksgiving Day: People of Eucharist

Today’s readings

Just yesterday, MaryAnn Fenton shared with me a letter she received from one of our Food Pantry clients. We had gone beyond food and helped her pay her rent this month because she was in a particularly bad spot. Just hearing her story brought tears to my eyes and it wasn’t a real hard decision to help her out. Well, very often when we do that, we don’t hear much back, maybe just a thank-you when they pick up the check. But this time, the woman decided to write us a letter, in which every word was filled with gratitude and love. What we had done for her didn’t seem like much, but to her it was everything; it had lifted a great burden of worry that she was carrying.

That act of gratitude provides a rich framework for what I want to talk about today, and it’s an interesting illustration of today’s Gospel reading. That reading is scandalous, because it seems that nine believers – people who should know how to be grateful to God – failed to express their gratitude over a miracle that literally gave them back the life that leprosy took away from them. It’s almost unthinkable. Maybe we can cut them a little slack, because when you look closely at the story, Jesus really didn’t say or do anything indicative of healing – all he did was say “Go show yourselves to the priests.” Now, it was the priests’ job to take care of ritual purity, but I’m guessing they had seen priests about their illness in the past and obviously had not been healed. So I can see how they would have been confused, frustrated, and maybe even a little angry at Jesus’ response. But they absolutely could not have been confused about the fact that they had been healed. And yet the only one who thought to give thanks and praise to God was the other guy, a Samaritan – a foreigner and a religious outcast who wasn’t expected to know the religious etiquette that one should follow.

Maybe the most deeply scandalous part of this whole reading is not just that nine lepers forgot to thank Jesus. I think the most scandalous part of this Gospel is that it really can be a kind of mirror of our own society, and perhaps even our own lives. Because these days gratitude is not a common occurrence; more often our society gets caught up in entitlement – we deserve blessings, we have a right to grace and mercy. Just as we think we have a right to everything in the whole world, we lay claim to God’s grace in ways that are deeply scandalous and even more than a little heretical.

Just like those ten lepers had no right to lay claim to Jesus’ healing powers, so we too have no right to lay claim to his grace and mercy. Those things do not belong to us, and even more than that we are quite unable to earn them, even if we had a desire to earn them in the first place. But here’s the really great thing that shatters the scandal: even though the lepers had no right to be healed, Jesus healed them anyway. Even though we have no right to God’s grace and forgiveness for our many sins, he gives those things to us anyway, without a thought of doing otherwise. As the saying goes, God is good, all the time.

And so the message today is that we have to decidedly leave behind our attitudes of entitlement and embrace an attitude of gratitude. And honestly, I think that can make us happier people. Grateful people live differently. Grateful people look for the blessing in every moment, they hunt for the grace constantly at work in their lives. When you’re grateful, it’s amazing how much more you seem to be blessed. Only it’s not necessarily that you’re blessed more; instead it’s that you’re more aware of the blessing. Thankful people are happier with their lives, because they’re simply more aware of what God is doing, how God is leading them, and they feel the touch of God’s hand leading them through life. Being grateful is a choice, but it’s a choice worth making, it’s a choice that makes our lives richer and more beautiful every day.

As Catholics, we are a people who, at least liturgically, constantly choose to be grateful. Our Eucharist – which, as we know, is the Greek word for thanksgiving – is the Thanksgiving feast beyond all of our imagining. Every time we gather to celebrate Mass, we remember that God in his infinite mercy sent his only Son to be our Savior. He came into our world and walked among us, filling the earth with his most merciful presence. He journeyed among us, a man like us in all things but sin. His great love led him to bear the cross for our sake, dying the death we so richly deserved for our many sins. And then he did the greatest thing possible: he burst out of the grave, breaking the chains of death, and rose to new life. Because of this grace, we have the possibility of everlasting life with God, the life we were created for in the first place.

Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember this awesome mystery. Not only that, our Eucharist brings us to the hour of that grace, giving us once again a share in its blessing. As a Eucharistic people, we Catholics are a people of gratitude. That’s what defines us.

So how would a people defined by gratitude celebrate this Thanksgiving day? Certainly we have made the best possible start: gathering for the Eucharist to give thanks for the presence of God and the grace he pours out on us. Then we take that grace to our families’ own Thanksgiving feasts and beyond. As we gather around the table today, maybe we can stop to reflect on God’s magnificent presence in our lives – in good times and in bad. And then use that gratitude to make the world an awesome place – or at least your corner of it!

So we’re not like those nine lepers that somehow missed the grace and blessing that was happening right before their eyes. We’re more like the food pantry client who realized, though she had no claim on our generosity, received it with joy and humility and gratitude. On this day, we gather because we choose to be grateful. On this day, before all the turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, we stand up and bear witness that our God is good all the time, that there is grace and blessing all around us, and we can see it if we choose to do so. We grateful ones come into this holy place to show a watching world that we are who we say we are – a people of Eucharist – of thanksgiving not just on this day, but every day. And we proclaim to a cynical world that gratitude is the antidote for entitlement, and it’s an attitude that can make the world a more blessed place. Like the pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving, our gratitude can become the source of our survival through the hard times and the source of our joy in the good times. May we never cease offer our gratitude to God, singing to him our songs of thanks and praise.

Thursday of the Twenty-first Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

When I was little, I often remember my grandmother saying “thank God for small favors!” Now that’s a holy and pious thought, and I’ll have you know my grandmother was certainly holy and pious. But when she said it, it was usually because someone had just done the least they could possibly do, or something they should have done long ago. So the sense of the saying was more like, “could you spare it?” or “well, finally!” Still, I love that phrase, “thank God for small favors” because it reminds us that everything, no matter how big or small, is God’s gift to us, and we should be grateful for it.

One of the most important marks of the Christian disciple is thankfulness. St. Paul was a man of thanksgiving, and we see that theme often in his letters. He may berate his communities when they were missing the point, but he would always also praise them for their goodness, and see that as an opportunity to thank God for giving the community grace. Today, it’s the Corinthian Church that he is grateful for. This is the beginning of his letter to them, and so he greets them in the name of his fellow workers, and then notes the abundance of spiritual gifts that have been bestowed on them. Then clearly he says: “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus…” Because it’s always God at work in the believer and never the believer all on his or her own. It’s grace, and we are thankful for grace.

God continues to work his grace in our communities as well. We see that faith in action in the many ministries of our parishes. But even more than that, we see that faith in action in our workplaces, communities, schools and homes. There is never a time when we are not disciples. We are grateful for God’s grace working in and through us in every situation. The word “Eucharist” means thanksgiving, and so the heart of even the most basic and solemn parts of our worship is thanksgiving. We are thankful for all favors, big and small!

Thanksgiving Day

Today’s readings: Isaiah 63:7-9; Psalm 145; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 17:11-19

Lately, I have had to take a step back and look at how blessed I am. Being the only priest assigned to this parish, things can get a little hectic. I can get caught up in all the stuff I have to do administratively, I can get bogged down in all of the sacramental needs of the parish, I can get caught up in the mission to be an evangelizing parish, and all of it can get to be a little too much. I suspect you all can resonate with that. Your own lives are filled with so many things, and many families have to live by a master calendar or stuff will get lost in the shuffle. We are a busy people and we can grow resentful if we’re not very careful.

I think that provides a little context for our celebration today. We begin with a Gospel story that is, quite frankly, a little scandalous. It’s scandalous because it seems that nine believers – people who should know how to be grateful to God – failed to express their gratitude over a miracle that literally gave them back the life that leprosy took away from them. It’s almost unthinkable.  Maybe we can cut them a little slack, because when you look closely at the story, Jesus really didn’t say or do anything indicative of healing – all he did was say “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  Now, it was the priests’ job to take care of ritual purity, but I’m guessing they had seen priests about their illness in the past and obviously had not been healed.  So I can see how they would have been confused, frustrated, and maybe even a little angry at Jesus’ response.  But they absolutely could not have been confused about the fact that they had been healed.  And yet the only one who thought to give thanks and praise to God was the other guy, a Samaritan – a foreigner and a religious outcast who wasn’t expected to know the religious etiquette that one should follow.

Maybe the most deeply scandalous part of this whole reading is not just that nine lepers forgot to thank Jesus. I think the most scandalous part of this Gospel is that it really can be a kind of mirror of our own society, and perhaps even our own lives. Because these days gratitude is not a common occurrence; more often our society gets caught up in entitlement – we deserve blessings, we have a right to grace and mercy. Just as we think we have a right to everything in the whole world, we lay claim to God’s grace in ways that are deeply scandalous and even more than a little heretical.

Just like those ten lepers had no right to lay claim to Jesus’ healing powers, so we too have no right to lay claim to his grace and mercy. Those things do not belong to us, and even more than that we are quite unable to earn them, even if we had a desire to earn them in the first place. But here’s the really great thing that shatters the scandal: even though the lepers had no right to be healed, Jesus healed them anyway. Even though we have no right to God’s grace and forgiveness for our many sins, he gives those things to us anyway, without a thought of doing otherwise. As the saying goes, God is good, all the time.

And so the message today is that we have to decidedly leave behind our attitudes of entitlement and embrace an attitude of gratitude. And honestly, I think that can make us happier people. Grateful people live differently.  Grateful people look for the blessing in every moment, they hunt for the grace constantly at work in their lives.  They are like radios which are powered on so that they can receive the broadcast.  When you’re grateful, it’s amazing how much more you seem to be blessed.  Only it’s not necessarily that you’re blessed more; instead it’s that you’re more aware of the blessing.  Thankful people are happier with their lives, because they’re simply more aware of what God is doing, how God is leading them, and they feel the touch of God’s hand leading them through life.  Being grateful is a choice, but it’s a choice worth making, it’s a choice that makes our lives richer and more beautiful every day.

As Catholics, we are a people who, at least liturgically, constantly choose to be grateful.  Our Eucharist – which, as we know, is the Greek word for thanksgiving – is the Thanksgiving feast par excellence.  Every time we gather to celebrate Mass, we remember that God in his infinite mercy sent his only Son to be our Savior.  He came into our world and walked among us, filling the earth with his most merciful presence.  He journeyed among us, a man like us in all things but sin.  His great love led him to bear the cross for our sake, dying the death we so richly deserved for our many sins.  And then he did the greatest thing possible: he burst out of the grave, breaking the chains of death, and rose to new life.  Because of this grace, we have the possibility of everlasting life with God, the life we were created for in the first place.

Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember this awesome mystery.  Not only that, our Eucharist brings us to the hour of that grace, giving us once again a share in its blessing.  As a Eucharistic people, we Catholics are a people of gratitude.  That’s what defines us.

So how would a people defined by gratitude celebrate this Thanksgiving day?  Certainly we have made the best possible start: gathering for the Eucharist to give thanks for the presence of God and the grace he pours out on us.  Then we take that grace to our families’ own Thanksgiving feasts and beyond.  As we gather around the table today, maybe we can stop to reflect on God’s magnificent presence in our lives – in good times and in bad.  And then use that gratitude to make the world an awesome place – or at least your corner of it!

So we’re not like those nine lepers that somehow missed the grace and blessing that was happening right before their eyes. On this day, we gather because we choose to be grateful. On this day, before all the turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, we stand up and bear witness that our God is good all the time, that there is grace and blessing all around us, and we can see it if we choose to do so. We grateful ones come into this holy place to show a watching world that we are who we say we are – a people of Eucharist – of thanksgiving: not just on this day, but every day. And we proclaim to the world that gratitude is the antidote for entitlement, and it’s an attitude that can make the world a more blessed place. Like the pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving, our gratitude can become the source of our survival through the hard times and the source of our joy in the good times.  May we never cease offer our gratitude to God, singing to him our songs of thanks and praise.

Thanksgiving

Today’s readings

A couple of years ago, my sister emailed me pictures of a storybook that my niece, Molly, wrote for a second grade school project.  It was a story about an unnamed boy and girl – but we might as well name them, because it was clear to me that the girl was the author and the boy was her brother Danny! The boy and the girl were having a discussion, and later an argument, about what they wanted to be when they grew up.  At some point, they were called to dinner, and the table was set with their favorite meal: pizza and fries.  They both enjoyed the meal and cleaned their plates and the boy said, “I want more.”  He didn’t get more, of course, but the girl did, because she asked nicely and thanked her mother. Then she told her brother, “Use your manners.”  The really scandalous part of this exchange is that I’ve heard the real girl demand more at the table without using her manners on more than one occasion!

That little story provides a rich framework for what I want to talk about today, and it’s an interesting illustration of today’s Gospel reading. That reading is scandalous too, because it seems that nine believers – people who should know how to be grateful to God – failed to express their gratitude over a miracle that literally gave them back the life that leprosy took away from them. It’s almost unthinkable.  Maybe we can cut them a little slack, because when you look closely at the story, Jesus really didn’t say or do anything indicative of healing – all he did was say “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  Now, it was the priests’ job to take care of ritual purity, but I’m guessing they had seen priests about their illness in the past and obviously had not been healed.  So I can see how they would have been confused, frustrated, and maybe even a little angry at Jesus’ response.  But they absolutely could not have been confused about the fact that they had been healed.  And yet the only one who thought to give thanks and praise to God was the other guy, a Samaritan – a foreigner and a religious outcast who wasn’t expected to know the religious etiquette that one should follow.

Maybe the most deeply scandalous part of this whole reading is not just that nine lepers forgot to thank Jesus. I think the most scandalous part of this Gospel is that it really can be a kind of mirror of our own society, and perhaps even our own lives. Because these days gratitude is not a common occurrence; more often our society gets caught up in entitlement – we deserve blessings, we have a right to grace and mercy. Just as we think we have a right to everything in the whole world, we lay claim to God’s grace in ways that are deeply scandalous and even more than a little heretical.

Just like those ten lepers had no right to lay claim to Jesus’ healing powers, so we too have no right to lay claim to his grace and mercy. Those things do not belong to us, and even more than that we are quite unable to earn them, even if we had a desire to earn them in the first place. But here’s the really great thing that shatters the scandal: even though the lepers had no right to be healed, Jesus healed them anyway. Even though we have no right to God’s grace and forgiveness for our many sins, he gives those things to us anyway, without a thought of doing otherwise. As the saying goes, God is good, all the time.

And so the message today is that we have to decidedly leave behind our attitudes of entitlement and embrace an attitude of gratitude. And honestly, I think that can make us happier people. Grateful people live differently.  Grateful people look for the blessing in every moment, they hunt for the grace constantly at work in their lives.  They are like radios which are powered on so that they can receive the broadcast.  When you’re grateful, it’s amazing how much more you seem to be blessed.  Only it’s not necessarily that you’re blessed more; instead it’s that you’re more aware of the blessing.  Thankful people are happier with their lives, because they’re simply more aware of what God is doing, how God is leading them, and they feel the touch of God’s hand leading them through life.  Being grateful is a choice, but it’s a choice worth making, it’s a choice that makes our lives richer and more beautiful every day.

As Catholics, we are a people who, at least liturgically, constantly choose to be grateful.  Our Eucharist – which, as we know, is the Greek word for thanksgiving – is the Thanksgiving feast par excellence.  Every time we gather to celebrate Mass, we remember that God in his infinite mercy sent his only Son to be our Savior.  He came into our world and walked among us, filling the earth with his most merciful presence.  He journeyed among us, a man like us in all things but sin.  His great love led him to bear the cross for our sake, dying the death we so richly deserved for our many sins.  And then he did the greatest thing possible: he burst out of the grave, breaking the chains of death, and rose to new life.  Because of this grace, we have the possibility of everlasting life with God, the life we were created for in the first place.

Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember this awesome mystery.  Not only that, our Eucharist brings us to the hour of that grace, giving us once again a share in its blessing.  As a Eucharistic people, we Catholics are a people of gratitude.  That’s what defines us.

So how would a people defined by gratitude celebrate this Thanksgiving day?  Certainly we have made the best possible start: gathering for the Eucharist to give thanks for the presence of God and the grace he pours out on us.  Then we take that grace to our families’ own Thanksgiving feasts and beyond.  As we gather around the table today, maybe we can stop to reflect on God’s magnificent presence in our lives – in good times and in bad.  And then use that gratitude to make the world an awesome place – or at least your corner of it!

So we’re not like those nine lepers that somehow missed the grace and blessing that was happening right before their eyes. On this day, we gather because we choose to be grateful. On this day, before all the turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, we stand up and bear witness that our God is good all the time, that there is grace and blessing all around us, and we can see it if we choose to do so. We grateful ones come into this holy place to show a watching world that we are who we say we are – a people of Eucharist – of thanksgiving not just on this day, but every day. And we proclaim to the world that gratitude is the antidote for entitlement, and it’s an attitude that can make the world a more blessed place. Like the pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving, our gratitude can become the source of our survival through the hard times and the source of our joy in the good times.  May we never cease offer our gratitude to God, singing to him our songs of thanks and praise.

Monday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

“Loose lips sink ships.” That’s a saying that I learned somewhere in my early elementary school life. I don’t think I fully understood what it meant at the time – all I appreciated was that it told me to keep my mouth shut. But as I’ve lived and matured, I know very well that frivolous talk can be hurtful and even dangerous. Our gift of speech is an important one: through it we communicate with each other and it is the basis of our being able to work and live in society. But using speech in the wrong way can cause a whole host of problems. We’ve all probably been in the midst of that in some way at some time in our lives.

And so Saint Paul’s words to the Ephesians are probably good ones for us to hear today:

Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you,
as is fitting among holy ones,
no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place…

All of us, who are called to be God’s holy ones, have a very important responsibility to use our gift of speech wisely. We must not engage in idle, frivolous, or even obscene speech, because this is out of place for those who follow the Lord. But what I think is so important is what Saint Paul says needs to be on the lips of God’s holy ones – and that is thanksgiving.

Big deal, right, of course we can speak about thanksgiving. But the Greek word that is translated “thanksgiving” here is eucharistia – and we all know what that means. The Eucharist – which is our thanksgiving – is always to be on our lips. So that’s the lens by which we ought always to view the words we say: are our words Eucharist? Are they thanksgiving? Because those are the only words we need to be saying.

Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service

Readings: 1 Kings 8:55-61; Ephesians 1:3-14; Luke 17:11-19

Earlier this week, my sister emailed me pictures of a storybook that my niece, Molly, wrote for a second grade school project.  It was a story about an unnamed boy and girl – who were certainly the author and her older brother Danny!  The boy and the girl were having a discussion, and later an argument, about what they wanted to be when they grew up.  At some point, they were called to dinner, and the table was set with their favorite meal: pizza and fries.  I briefly wondered what my sister had been giving the kids for dinner, but since I’m not a parent, I let it pass.  They both enjoyed the meal and cleaned their plates and the boy said, “I want more.”  He didn’t get more, of course, but the girl did.  She asked nicely and thanked her mother, then she told her brother, “Use your manners.”  The really scandalous part of this exchange is that I’ve heard the real girl demand more at the table without using her manners on more than one occasion!

Molly’s story came to mind when I was mulling over the Gospel for this evening.  Because in some ways this story is deeply scandalous.  That nine believers – people who should have known how to use their manners – failed to express their gratitude over a miracle that literally gave them back the life that leprosy took away from them is unthinkable.  I’m almost willing to cut them a little slack, because when you look closely at the story, Jesus really didn’t say or do anything indicative of healing – all he did was say “Go show yourselves to the priests.  Now, it was the priests’ job to take care of ritual purity, but I’m guessing they had seen priests about their illness in the past and obviously had not been healed.  So I can see how they would have been confused, frustrated, and maybe even a little angry at Jesus’ response.  But they absolutely could not have been confused about the fact that they had been healed.  And yet the only one who thought to give thanks and praise to God was a Samaritan – a foreigner and a religious outcast who wasn’t expected to know the religious etiquette that one should follow.

What may in fact be most scandalous for us, of course, is that this story, like so many Gospel vignettes, can be a bit like looking into a mirror.  How often have we been oblivious to the grace that has taken us out of a bad situation?  How often have we forgotten to “use our manners” and give God the thanks and praise, which he is due? So the tug of the Gospel here is not just that we look at the story and give that Samaritan a pat on the back and a “shame on you” to the other nine.  The tug of the Gospel is that we would hear the message and use it as a lens to examine our lives, and a framework for reforming our lives.    Like the Samaritan, we are called to bring Jesus our need for healing, and to receive what’s given to us in the spirit in which it is offered.  Then, of course, we are called to give God thanks and praise, with all our heart and soul.

Bringing Jesus our need for healing may be the hardest part.  First off, we have to know that we need healing and we need to be ready to accept it the way we get it.  Then we have to trust God to do it.  God is not too small to deal with the issues that confront us, nor is he too big to care about them.  Too often, I think we really don’t ask for enough from God.  Not that we don’t come to him with countless petitions, some of which, quite frankly, it’s a good thing if we don’t get them.  God is not, after all, a genie in a bottle who goes about granting all of our wishes.  Contrary to what some may think, our prosperity in this life isn’t necessarily at the top of God’s priority list, especially if that’s not what he thinks would be helpful to our salvation.

But I think the problem can be that we don’t ask for enough: we don’t ask for grace to grow in holiness, motivation to eradicate patterns of sin, the courage to become saints, or the faith to move mountains.  I think we get too comfortable with life the way it is, and besides, those things scare us, and so we often don’t trust God enough to give us what he wants for us, to give us that which would make us really, truly happy.

But what if we had the courage of the ten lepers and were to name our need and cry out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” – what would happen then?  Maybe then, if we’re attentive enough, we might see spiritual growth, realize the Lord’s presence as we walk through life, and truly become a thankful people.  I guess I’m hoping that there’s somewhat better of a one-in-ten shot at it; that we as believers would be more willing to attribute the miracle to God rather than our own efforts or some kind of cosmic serendipity.  Because people in need of healing must always be ready to be grateful.  And it’s amazing what gratitude does for your spiritual life.

Grateful people live differently.  Grateful people look for the blessing in every moment, they hunt for the grace constantly at work in their lives.  They are like radios which are powered on so that they can receive the broadcast.  When you’re grateful, it’s amazing how much more you seem to be blessed.  Only it’s not necessarily that you’re blessed more; instead it’s that you’re more aware of the blessing.  Thankful people are happier with their lives, because they’re simply more aware of what God is doing, how God is leading them, and they feel the touch of God’s hand leading them through life.  Being grateful is a choice, but it’s a choice worth making, it’s a choice that makes our lives richer and more beautiful every day.

So how do we become thankful people.  As I mentioned, gratitude is a choice, so I think it’s something we have to do intentionally.  A good spiritual practice is to spend some time at the end of every day reflecting on the day gone by.  Think about all the events and encounters of the day, and particularly note the ones that have been blessed in some way.  When have you experienced an interaction that was far more pleasant than you’d expected?  Or when did someone say just the thing you needed to hear?  When were you able to accomplish something that you never thought you could or be in the right place to help someone at the right time?  Then, like the Samaritan, fall at the feet of Jesus and thank him.

Thanksgiving should not simply be a one-day-a-year event for us.  The believer’s life should be regularly marked by thanksgiving.  We, after all, worship a God who, as Solomon says in our first reading, keeps his promises.  We are the ones, as Saint Paul reminds us, have been consecrated, set aside for redemption by the Blood of our Lord.  We have every reason to be thankful, and we know how to “use our manners.”  May the grace of giving thanks find us growing in blessing every day of our lives.

Thanksgiving

Today’s readings: Isaiah 63:7-9 – Psalm 145 – Colossians 3:12-17 – John 16:20-22

I think, over the past year, that God has been teaching me to be grateful.  Not that I wasn’t a grateful person before, but maybe more that I am re-learning how to be grateful.  As a pastor, there are whole new sets of challenges, different from when I was an associate.  But there are whole new sets of graces, too, also different from when I was an associate.

That got me thinking about what Thanksgiving really means as a feast.  Sure, it’s easy for us to be grateful people when things are going along fine, and we’re not challenged, and we can easily see the blessings.  But how grateful are we when things are difficult and our lives are turned inside-out?  Can we be grateful anyway in all of that?

I think that’s what Jesus is telling us in our Gospel today.  “You will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”  A holiday like Thanksgiving can be hard for those who are weeping and mourning.  And if Father Pat just stands here and says, “count your blessings,” that would not be a homily worth hearing.

So what is the meaning of this Thanksgiving feast?  Well, I think a lot of us know the story.  We learned in school that the pilgrims gathered in autumn of 1621 after a year in the New World.  It was a year of rich harvests, and they were thankful that they had survived.  So their gathering was a feast of giving thanks to God for what he had done for them.  They were thankful because they had survived.

But Peter Fleck, a Unitarian minister, suggested a few years ago that maybe that wasn’t it at all.  Maybe what was really true was that they survived because they were thankful.  Think about it, that year could not have been an easy one for them.  They were in a new land, vastly different from what they had been used to.  They had grown crops they weren’t used to and survived disease.  After all of that harrowing experience, they were still grateful.  Maybe that “attitude of gratitude” was why they survived.

Saint Paul had that notion, I think, in our second reading today.  Writing to the Colossians, he is telling them how to survive as people of faith.  He challenges them to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient and forgiving.  He tells them to love one another and be peaceful people.  And then he shows them were it all begins: “And be thankful.”

Notice how he says it.  He wasn’t asking them to feel thankful.  He told them to be thankful.  Gratitude is a decision, not an emotion.  Grateful people choose to look for the blessing in everyday life, even in hard times, and they thank God for that.  Grateful people choose to look for God’s presence in the midst of darkness, and thank him for walking with them on the journey.  They don’t wait to be grateful for winning the lottery or landing the big account at work or getting that promotion they were hoping for.  Instead, they seize the opportunity to be thankful for being.  They are thankful for having the presence of God on the journey.

As Catholics, we are a people who constantly choose to be grateful.  Our Eucharist is the Thanksgiving feast par excellence.  Every time we gather to celebrate Mass, we remember that God in his infinite mercy sent his only Son to be our Savior.  He came into our world and walked among us, filling the earth with his most merciful presence.  He journeyed among us, a man like us in all things but sin.  His great love led him to bear the cross for our sake, dying the death we so richly deserved for our many sins.  And then he did the greatest thing possible: he burst out of the grave, breaking the chains of death, and rose to new life.  Because of this grace, we have the possibility of everlasting life with God, the life we were created for in the first place.

Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember this awesome mystery.  Not only that, our Eucharist brings us to the hour of that grace, giving us once again a share in its blessing.  As a Eucharistic people, we Catholics are a people of gratitude.  That’s what defines us.

So how would a people defined by gratitude celebrate this Thanksgiving day?  Certainly we have made the best possible start: gathering for the Eucharist to give thanks for the presence of God and the grace he pours out on us.  Then we take that grace to our families’ own Thanksgiving feasts and beyond.  As we gather around the table today, maybe we can stop to reflect on God’s magnificent presence in our lives – in good times and in bad.  And then use that gratitude to make the world an awesome place – or at least your corner of it!

Gratitude is infectious – in a good way!  When we make it a constant spiritual practice to reflect on how God has blessed us, when we take the time to thank someone for something little they did that made us smile, when we show our gratitude by reaching out in service to others, others can become grateful people too.  A watching world looks at us Catholics to see if we really are who we say we are.  When we live as grateful people, our Eucharist is authentic and our witness is exhilarating.

Like those pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving, maybe our gratitude can become the source of our survival through the hard times and the source of our joy in the good times.  May we never cease to sing the praise of God and to cry out in songs of thanks.

Monday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“Loose lips sink ships.”  That’s a saying that I learned somewhere in my early elementary school life.  I don’t think I fully understood what it meant at the time – all I appreciated was that it told me to keep my mouth shut.  But as I’ve lived and matured, I know very well that frivolous talk can be hurtful and even dangerous.  Our gift of speech is an important one: through it we communicate with each other and it is the basis of our being able to work and live in society.  But using speech in the wrong way can cause a whole host of problems.  We’ve all probably been in the midst of that in some way at some time in our lives.

And so Saint Paul’s words to the Ephesians are probably good ones for us to hear today:

Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you,

as is fitting among holy ones,

no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place

All of us, who are called to be God’s holy ones, have a very important responsibility to use our gift of speech wisely.  We must not engage in idle, frivolous, or even obscene speech, because this is out of place for those who follow the Lord.  But what I think is so important is what Saint Paul says needs to be on the lips of God’s holy ones – and that is thanksgiving.

Big deal, right, of course we can speak about thanksgiving.  But the Greek word that is translated “thanksgiving” here is eucharistia – and we all know what that means.  The Eucharist – which is our thanksgiving – is always to be on our lips.  So that’s the lens by which we ought always to view the words we say: are our words Eucharist?  Are they thanksgiving?  Because those are the only words we need to be saying.