I’ll be the first to admit I don’t read the daily Mass readings every day. I wish I did. It’s something I’m working on. Something else I’ll admit, I tend to have books pile up on my desk for months without reading.
A few weeks ago, though, by the grace of God, I opened up the Scriptures to that day’s Gospel reading. Right after prayer, I had extra time, so I reached for that stack of books and grabbed The Little Book of Holy Gratitude by Father Frederick Faber. I read the whole thing in one sitting; this is not the norm for me. The thesis of the entire book was the Gospel reading I had just prayed through. No joke! How perfect God’s timing! How patient he is with us! How poised he is to speak as soon as we are ready to listen.
The Opportunity for Reflection
Here’s the passage (Luke 17: 11-19):
“As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 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.”
While we often think of the Psalms as the primary place for prayers of thanksgiving in the Bible, if you pay close attention to this passage, there are deep themes of gratitude and identity. The Little Book of Holy Gratitude was also about these, and I was grateful for the reflection, especially as we approach such a big holiday on the American calendar. Thanksgiving day is filled with so much tradition, memories, emotions, weight gain, and what else? Family drama.
Thanksgiving All Year Long
In all seriousness, though, this time of year is significant. We have the opportunity to focus on something that could be more consistent all year, giving God our gratitude, showing him our appreciation. I was enthralled by that book because I was convicted and converted!
The practice of thanksgiving is rooted in our acceptance of God as our Father, an openness to his Holy Spirit, who moves in our lives as God wills, and who infuses in us a desire to be grateful for God’s presence alone – not just what he does.
Every year, we anticipate emotions, worries, personalities, you name it, when it comes to the many family gatherings the holidays bring.
And because we are in the throes of planning the perfect family gathering, our anxiety spikes, and we are left wondering, ‘how am I going to get through this?’
I want to invite each of us not to get caught up in the worry of the worst Thanksgiving Day could bring, but instead, genuinely consider gratitude. Maybe make it a daily practice.
That little book of gratitude encourages praying our exultation for the following:
- The personal blessings you have received.
- Your victories.
- Your health and life.
- The past and present humiliations you have experienced.
- The times you have been patient and have suffered.
- The small and hidden blessings you have received.
- The divine election that made you Catholic.
- Divine Providence that has been your shield and buckler ever since you were born.
- The divine liberality that has loaded you with such a profusion of gifts and graces.
- The afflictions and tribulations that you have endured.
- The blessings you have obstructed.
- God’s nonrational creatures who are unable to give God thanks.
- The blessings given to our enemies.
- God’s angels and saints.
- The gift of faith you enjoy.
Saying Thank You for the Gift
As I neared the end of the book, this line stood out to me:
“All growth comes from love; and love is at once both the cause and effect of thanksgiving” (The Little Book of Holy Gratitude, p. 88).
The Christian life is all about relationship. Not just rules and guidelines, but about a relationship with God. When Christ asks, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?” No doubt, Jesus was hurt. That can happen in relationships when someone doesn’t return to say thank you and acknowledge, not just the gift, but the gift of self.
Instead of focusing on the drama, this Thanksgiving, consider focusing on how God has given himself to you as a gift. How is his gift causing you to be a gift to others? And how can you more fully express your gratitude today and beyond? Because girl, it’s really important to say thank you to God.