Homily for October 13

Homily for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Welcome to the first week of a message series we're calling
So, what does it mean to be grateful? Here’s a way to understand it: 
a thankful appreciation for what you receive - tangible or intangible:
things we can touch and things we can’t,
like love, empathy, or emotional support.
Challenging myself to name the things I'm most grateful for,
I came up with these three:
- the family I grew up in, especially the love of my parents
- the call to serve as a minister of the gospel
- and the love of God of so many people in my life.
What might be the three things you're most grateful for in your life?

Being grateful means first noticing the good things in our lives
AND recognizing that the source of this goodness
lies somewhere outside of, beyond ourselves. 
Others are contributing to the goodness we experience
and, we hope, we're contributing to theirs.
Sometimes we might make the mistake
of comparing our gratitude with others.

Comfortably grateful ourselves
we might wonder why friends or colleagues, our spouse or our kids
aren't as grateful for what they have
- and for what I've given them - as I am -
while all the while
they might be thinking exactly the same about us!           
It’s not easy to challenge our own assumptions
about how grateful we really are,
but doing so might really make a difference in our lives.
Being grateful and becoming aware of feelings of gratitude
is just the beginning: the next step is just as important.

When you were a child, do you remember being asked,
after receiving a gift, "Now, what do you say?"
Why were we asked that question -
and why do we ask it of children in our care today?
It’s good manners, of course, a social convention -
but is there something more?
Or, have you ever given a gift to someone for a wedding or graduation
- and never received a thank you? 
How did that make you feel?   
Unappreciated? Unrecognized? Forgotten?

You’re reasonably sure the recipient of your gift is feeling grateful
- and you didn’t give the gift just to get a thank you note -
but you'd definitely feel better if your gift were acknowledged. 
Otherwise, it seems that there’s something missing,
the process is incomplete.
We're not satisfied by presuming someone's gratitude,
- we want it to be shared with us.
It's a very human need to be acknowledged and appreciated.

When someone says, "Thank you!"
it’s good for both the giver and the recipient

Gratitude is so important in our lives.
Studies show there’s no more effective way
to increase happiness and well-being than by practicing gratitude.

Gratitude helps us: 
Feel more positive emotions
Block toxic emotions (envy, resentment, regret)
Relish good experiences
Improve mental and spiritual health
Deal with adversity
Build stronger relationships
Focus on what we have, not what we lack

Well, it’s so good for us, why aren't we more grateful
and more expressive of our gratitude? 
Why do we often find ourselves focusing
not on what we have - but on what we don't have?

In this series, we’ll explore how grateful living can transform:
us, our families, our parish  --  and even far beyond that. 
It won't come as any surprise to us that Jesus thinks that gratitude is:
something important, something that needs to be expressed
and something God wants to help us grow into.
In Luke’s Gospel today
we find Jesus on a journey to Jerusalem.
“As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him…” Luke: 17:12

In our own day, leprosy can be rather easily cured, but in Jesus' day
it was something critically serious and very much feared.
Leprosy is a painful, disfiguring disease
including blisters, rashes and ulcers on the skin.
First century people didn't yet understand contagious disease
but they were put off by leprosy's physical symptoms
AND they interpreted the signs of leprosy,
especially open, oozing sores, as a sign of being morally unclean.
And the morally unclean were expelled from the community -
shunned, even by their own families, not welcomed
- indeed, left to die, alone and as outcasts.
Life, as these ten lepers in the story knew it - was over.

The Gospel tells us that the lepers
 “stood at a distance” from Jesus.
This was out of fear and respect:
it would be considered rude and dangerous
for the "unclean" to approach healthy people.
But they had heard of Jesus’ healing power
and were desperate for a chance to get their lives back.

They had nothing to lose, so:
“They raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!’”
Jesus sees them, and knows their suffering. He responds: 
"Go show yourselves to the priests."
What’s that about? 
In Jesus’ time, people claiming to be healed of disease
were required to have a priest confirm their healing
before they could be allowed back into
and resume their place in their family and community.
So Jesus told the ten lepers to go and present themselves to the priests.
The ten didn't ask any questions, they just did what Jesus told them to do.
The story goes on:
"As they were going, they were cleansed of their leprosy.”
Now, when the 10 realized they were healed,
one of them immediately turned back and found Jesus, and
“...glorifying God in a loud voice,
he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.”
Now you might be thinking the same thing as Jesus was thinking: 
“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"

As surprising as it was
that only 1 out of 10 who were healed returned to give thanks,
it was even more surprising
that the one who did return was a Samaritan,
a people who were hated by the Jews.
In Jesus’ time and culture, there were very clear ideas about
who was a friend and who was an enemy,
who was in and who was out
and Samaritans were definitely enemies,
they were definitely out!
These tendencies and prejudices in society
haven't changed much over the past 2,000 years.

Jesus though, in his infinite love for all people,
sees the good in this man, his faith in God,
and recognizes his desire to express his gratitude
for the gift of healing he received.
Jesus says to this one grateful man:
"Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."
So the healing, the gift given, is not only physical
- it's interior as well.

Do you think the other 9 were un-grateful or grateful?
Do you think the other nine who were healed
at least felt grateful?
Of course they did!
They were healed and were getting their lives back--
family, friends, jobs -
they would no longer be outcasts,
they could be welcomed back into their families and community.
They just didn’t make it a priority to return and express their gratitude
to the one who had given everything back to them.

Can we identify with this?
Are we sometimes so immersed in our lives,
even in our feeling grateful
that expressing our gratitude takes a back seat?
No matter how old we grow,
there are times when we still need someone to prompt us,
"Now, what do you say?"

We know that giving thanks is important
--  what keeps us from doing it?
We’re too busy.  We're lazy.  We're careless.
We forget.  “It’s not my style.”         
Oh, my parents know I'm grateful!
My spouse knows I'm grateful!
My friends know I'm grateful!  -  I don't have to say it.
And how about this one:
God already knows what’s in my heart, what I'm feeling -
what's the point of saying “thank you”      
when God already knows I feel grateful?
One writer put it this way:
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing
it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

But if we're honest, we know that expressing gratitude
is an integral part of the giving and receiving dynamic.
Gratitude completes the circle of generosity, of goodness, of giving.

Expressing our thanks helps us recognize, realize and remember
that we ARE grateful - which makes us happy all over again!
And gratitude, expressed, brings joy to the one who gave us the gift:
the giver takes joy in the joy we've received.
Gratitude expressed is definitely a win/win deal!

It’s not enough to feel gratitude,
our gratitude needs to be expressed and shared.
During this series we’ll be getting really practical
and work on building up a toolkit
for how to express gratitude to God - and others.

So, here’s a challenge for this week:
Ask yourself honestly:
am I the one grateful person who stops everything
to give voice to my gratitude?
Or am I among the nine who may feel grateful
but that I often, maybe more often that I’d like to admit,
fails to express it? 
Reflect, this week, on your gratitude quotient, your "GQ."
Which is winning out in your life--
complaint and indifference  -- or gratitude? 

Here’s another way to look at it:
if each of your thoughts were a "tweet"
needing a hashtag to classify it,
would most of your thoughts or words in a given day
end with:  #complaint                      
or #grateful?
What’s trending in your life right now? 

What difference might more gratitude in our lives make for us?
One of the many rewards for choosing to be more grateful
is becoming more aware
of some people whom we might be taking for granted.
This can revitalize and enhance our relationships
and bring family and friends closer together. 

Recognizing, with gratitude, how much we already have
can help us see our lives with new eyes
and put the brakes on our always wanting more,
and thus easing some of the stress and worry that comes
from too much focus on accumulating more and more.

Living gratefully can help us loosen our grip on  -- what’s “mine,”
and inspire us to share what we have more freely with others.
Generosity invites God in,
because giving is the essence of who God is

That one leper’s experience of healing and expressing his thanks
was only the beginning of his new life,
and I'm confident it included the joy and peace of mind
that living gratefully provides.

Being grateful is the starting point.
We begin to recognize the many ways God is generous to us in our lives,
and how God has been there all along. 



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