Canadian Thanksgiving occurs up in my part of the world this weekend. It is easy to give thanks this year, despite the cloud that could hang over my head. I am grateful for the graces I have received at the hands of a marvelous medical team and a caring community that surrounds me. I appreciate that I still “look great” and have sufficient energy for most tasks. While I still fall into apathy some days and forget that I am a walking miracle, this day, I am remembering how blessed I am. God has been so very good to me.
The readings today are all about gratitude. Naaman immerses himself in the Jordan seven times and rises to find his skin restored, cleansed of his ailment. His desire is to move to an action of gratitude, to gift the Giver. Paul writes Timothy in the Second Reading as a prison in chains who extols the Faithful One. Of the 10 lepers cured in the Gospel of Luke, only one sees that he is healed, and turns back, praising God loudly. Can we give God praise loudly even in adversity–especially–when we find ourselves somewhere that we never had hoped to be? Even Jesus asks the question as to where the other nine are. It is the foreigner, the alien, the one who seemingly does not belong in the Gospel story, that returns to Jesus to give thanks and humble himself by prostrating on the ground before him.
When was the last time you felt so completely grateful that you crumbled to your knees before Jesus and gave thanks? I remember several times during my illness that surge of gratitude coming over me, bringing tears to my eyes–after the embolization procedure, awaking in the recovery room, having no evidence of the disease at my first scan after surgery, seeing hundreds of people at my 55th birthday party. Honestly, unless you have been experienced this I cannot explain with words the immense emotional rush that accompanies this gratitude. Throwing myself at the feet of Christ seems like the closest image I can use to explain it….a sense of not wanting to hug the Merciful One but simply cling to his feet and weep because I am unable to articulate how joy, relief, awe, and humility can reside in the same space so loudly and collaboratively. The marvel is that Jesus will have no part of it, asking us to rise and go on our way.
Living with a disease that alienates like leprosy does can strip away many character traits and fortify others. The decision to live well, whatever it is that plagues us, can make all the difference. Living with cancer–not dying from it–is a subtle shift in thinking that creates an attitude of positivity rather than negativity. Part of living well is nurturing a grateful spirit and for me, remembering that Jesus is the One who extends mercy. When I keep my eyes on Jesus, it will be my faith that makes me well.
Not many of us will find ourselves before the Holy One, begging for mercy. At least that is my hope but perhaps it is unrealistic. Maybe it is truer to say that all of us at least once in our lives will keep our distance in shame, pain, and fear but still find a sliver of courage to ask for mercy for ourselves or someone in our lives. Cancer is so prevalent that sadly the later is probably more accurate. The darkness of whatever it is that needs to be lifted will imprison us. This is when we must most remain faithful to the the Faithful One. Jesus will be there when we want to return with thanks. May we praise him loudly when we do.
Remember how blessed you are. What comes to mind to give thanks for?
Has gratitude ever brought you to your knees?
Merciful One, you tell us to rise and go on our way because our faith has healed us. Help us to believe that you desire our wholeness. Do not let us keep our distance or keep silent in our needs. May we learn to prostrate ourselves before you in complete gratitude for answering our prayers. Keep us faithful to you alone. Amen.