Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Two important phrases can change our world if we constantly use them and mean them: “I am sorry” and “thank you.” However, it seems they are missing components in our human nature as we often struggle to use them to strengthen our vertical and horizontal relationships.
Our focus here is on the second phrase, which is about gratitude. St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:18) says: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
In the First Reading (2 Kings 5:14-17), we hear the story of Naaman. This Syrian army commander received healing from his leprosy through the prophet of God, Elisha, who had asked him to bathe seven times in the Jordan River.
The interesting part of the narrative is that Naaman returned to give thanks with gifts. Though the prophet refused to collect the physical items from Naaman, his intentional act of returning to give thanks was remarkable.
The Gospel Reading (Luke 17:11-19) tells us about Ten lepers who met Jesus and begged to receive healing. Responding, our Lord Jesus Christ asked them to go and show themselves to the priest. On their way, they found that they had been made clean. One of them, realizing that he had been healed, returned to thank our Lord Jesus Christ, who in turn asked, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
The Mystery of Giving Thanks
There is something about gratitude that we are yet to understand fully and utilize effectively in our relationship with God and even with others. David understood the importance of thanksgiving and made effective use of it. Psalm (119:164) tells us that David praises God seven times a day.
The question is, “why is thanksgiving very important to God?” The answer is, “thanksgiving, with praise and worship, is the only thing we can give to God.” We cannot provide what God needs. In Psalm 50 (12-15), God made it clear that we cannot feed Him; however, He tells us that what pleases Him is the sacrifice of thanksgiving, which in turn provides us with His divine deliverance from troubles.
Unveiling the Secrets of Giving Thanks
The reaction of Jesus Christ to the leper who returned to give thanks potentially reveals how God values thanksgiving. Notice that when the cleansed and healed leper returned to give thanks, the Lord said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”.
A quick lesson here is that gratitude is an expression of faith. However, there are other indices of thanksgiving that will enrich us in this reflection; in order words, we shall be looking at the secrets of giving thanks.
The thankful is always joyful: Gratitude produces joy if it is real. So, it is impossible to be grateful without being joyful. At the dedication of the rebuilt Walls of Jerusalem, Jeremiah (12:17) tells us that the Levites celebrated the dedication joyfully with songs of thanksgiving. In the same way, Naaman and the one leper that returned to Jesus showed up joyfully to give thanks. So, if you ever want to be joyful, be thankful!
Thanksgiving gives access to God: The Book of Psalm (100:4) tells us to “enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” So, the easiest way to access God’s presence is via thanksgiving and praise. Recall that what gave Solomon access to the heart of God was his thousand burnt offerings of thanksgiving to God at Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1:2-7).
Thanksgiving empowers and strengthens: There is dynamic empowerment and strength that come with showing up to give thanks to God. The Book of Psalms (84:7) says, “they grow from strength to strength who appear before God in Zion.” If we experience joy in giving thanks, we are also strengthened, as the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Thanksgiving relaxes anxiety and brings peace: If faith lies at the base of every sincere act of giving thanks, then fear is completely eradicated, and peace is enthroned. God gave Solomon peace on every side because of his intentional act of thanksgiving to God. It is difficult to be in fear when giving thanks!
Moving Forward: Be Thankful and Give Thanks: If anyone asked the other nine lepers who did not return to the Lord to give thanks, whether they were thankful for their healing or not, they would probably say yes, and we may not dispute the answer.
The narrative of the ten lepers is a call to give thanks beyond the passive attitude of being thankful. It is easy to be thankful as an action of the mind than to step out to give thanks. Being thankful is theoretical but giving thanks is practical.
We often feel thankful, and it ends there. With the story of Naaman and the one leper, the liturgy of the Word today is challenging us to take a further proactive step to return to God and give thanks. In order words, we need to express our thankfulness.
Gratitude should be our daily default attitude in life. So often, we are quick to complain about what we do not have, but we find it difficult to give thanks for the numerous things we already have. Look around you carefully; you will see many things to be grateful for.
Of course, we have nothing good that we cannot trace to God. The Letter of James (1:17) says: “every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights who does not change like shifting shadows.” So, be thankful for everything, but remember to give thanks every day!
God bless you.