Today is Thanksgiving Thursday. An annual holiday when many of us gather with family and friends, sharing food and drink and maybe watch some of the numerous hours of football on TV. Some people devote their day, or part of it, aiding the needy by serving food at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, bringing a Thanksgiving meal to people who cannot cook or are shut-in or do not have any loved ones to share the day with. It is a day to give back for everything we have been blessed with. It is great to celebrate on this one day but shouldn’t it be an everyday thing?
How many freedoms do we have, and enjoy, that we take for granted? One of those, a very important one and an important factor in our country’s founding, is that we have freedom of religion. That is not freedom FROM religion. It is freedom OF religion. Our choice. I chose to be a practicing Catholic. I thank Jesus Christ for founding the Catholic Church. I thank the United States Constitution for letting me partake in my faith traditions without fear of persecution. Do we remember to give thanks to God for all the blessings He has given us? We have much to be thankful for. We cannot accomplish anything without using the talents that God gave us. God knows what we are capable of doing. If we follow His example and listen to His words then we will do what He expects us to do. We will share our blessings with others. It does not have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as a smile or thank you to brighten a stranger’s day.
The instruction in today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach says that well “…And now bless the God of all, who has done wonders on the earth…may He grant you a wise heart and abide with you in peace.” How do we bless God? We do that through prayer giving Him thanks and praise. That is why you are here at Mass this morning on a day that is not a Holy Day of Obligation. You are here because you want to say thank you to God for the blessings you have received from Him. If we do that than His goodness towards us will last forever.
Today’s 2nd reading is the greeting from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In those days Corinth was like the old Las Vegas before the family fun place destination became its theme. St. Paul converted many people and established many churches in Corinth but after he left some of the people would slide back into their old ways. We are all weak and succumb to temptations. St. Paul would hear about this backsliding so he would write them a letter to amend their ways. Those letters often began with a greeting similar to todays “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In this greeting He is reminding the recipient that it is God the Father and Jesus Christ the Lord whose peace it is that St. Paul brings them.
St. Paul’s greeting tells the Corinthians what he is doing for them, why he is doing it and what God is doing for them. He says “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus…Christ was confirmed among you…He will keep you firm to the end…” St. Paul concludes the greeting with “God is faithful, and by Him you were called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” This greeting reminds the Corinthians that God is faithful and that they also need to be faithful. They need to give thanks to God just as St. Paul does because they are “…in fellowship with Jesus Christ.” This is also a reminder to us that we are in that same fellowship.
However, it is really in today’s gospel that the message hits home. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. It is His final destination. He knows that He will die there at the time His father calls Him. On this journey He is approached by ten lepers. Leprosy is a frightening disease. No one wanted to be near anyone with leprosy and lepers were segregated from the general public. They knew that no one wanted to be near them for fear of getting the disease. These ten lepers stayed at a distance from Jesus but that did not stop them from shouting and begging Him… “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!!” Jesus responds by telling them to go on their way and go see the priests. As they go they are cleansed, cured from the disease. What happens next? They realize that they have been cleansed yet only one returns to thank Jesus. The one who returns is a Samaritan. Samaritans were considered to be a lower class of Israelite yet it is the Samaritan who goes back to gives thanks. There is no mention of the other nine lepers and we do not hear about them again. All we know is that they were takers of Jesus’ compassion but that they did not give thanks. The Samaritan came back and received the greatest compliment and blessing from Jesus “Stand up and go, your faith has saved you.” Isn’t that what we want? We want Jesus to be merciful, compassionate and forgiving of our sins. We want Jesus to tell us that our faith has saved us. He wants us to give thanks for our blessings.
Sirach told us today to bless the God of all people, St. Paul reminded us to be faithful and St. Luke reminded us that our faith will save us.
Happy Thanksgiving and May God bless you all