Monday, November 21, 2016

Deepening Our Gratitude

Dear Friends,
What do you say to someone who thanks you for a kind word, a thoughtful gesture or unexpected encouragement? Most often heard in the public square today is the response “No problem!” This phrase is really a throwaway, isn’t it? It may well be that both the giver and the receiver of thanks are distracted – not really present to one another.
What ever happened to “You’re welcome?” This response “You’re welcome!” acknowledges a gift given and taken in, a word or gesture valued, not diminished by a throwaway response. Receiving or giving a grateful word takes a certain bigness of heart, a sense that together, the giver and the receiver of thanks have achieved a new moment in the human journey of connectedness. We are better for having had this encounter.
Often, the gospel we use for a Thanksgiving Day Eucharist is the story of Jesus and the 10 lepers. (Luke  17. 11 – 19) We tend to lump these lepers together into a faceless group, as if they came out of nowhere and were going nowhere.
But they were people with life stories, like you and me. Someone loved them. Maybe they had a spouse or children who missed them, who wondered what had brought this disaster down on them. Birthdays, weddings, deaths were missed. Maybe some were professionals whose work was forfeited because of their illness. They were women and men, young and old, from here and there. Jesus went to them. He stood in their outcast place with them and gave them new life. Nine ran off to resume that life. Maybe they didn’t even realize that Jesus had anything to do with their cleansing. But one did: a foreigner, a stranger, a Samaritan. When in his own moment of joy, the healed man recognized the source of his cure and thanked Jesus. The Scripture doesn’t say so, but I suspect that Jesus knew his own moment of joy.
Gratitude begets joy, and joy is contagious.
So here are the ingredients we’ve already mentioned that we can use to deepen gratitude in our gifted lives:                                  be present to/conscious of the one being thanked
                                           recognize our connectedness with one another
                                           say the words “thank you”
                                           experience joy and pass it on
This Thanksgiving, “pray not only because you need something, but because you have a lot to be grateful for” (Pope Francis). For all the gifts of life, say thank you to God, not “no problem.” No matter our feelings about the recent elections, Theodore Roosevelt encourages us: “No people on earth have more cause to be grateful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness in our own strength, but with gratitude to the Giver of good who has blessed us.”
And I thank God for you who stop by this blog to consider and sometimes savor these weekly thoughts.
~ Sister Joan Sobala