The reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (17:12-19)
As Christians we have so much to be thankful for in this life. We are thankful for all of the various things that other people are thankful for, such as loved ones and friends, our homes, the food on our tables, the many blessings that we have received. But as Christians we take this level of gratitude and we amplify it to a whole new level.
As Christians we are really blessed beyond our wildest expectations or desires. We are blessed to be called sons and daughters, adopted children of God. We are blessed with miracles in our lives. We are blessed with an Orthodox faith and Orthodox Church to guide us from this land to the shores of eternity. We are blessed with the healing sacraments of the Church, the medicines that give us life and joy. As Christians we are blessed to have knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, but more than that, we are blessed to know them through a living relationship.
As Christians we are blessed to have communion with the saints who have lived throughout the ages. We are not alone, we are together in a community, both with the people around us and the holy men and women who came before us and fought valiantly for the faith that has been handed down to us.
As Christians we are thankful to know that God really loves us and this love took flesh and became man and dwelt among us. We are thankful to know that Our Lord Jesus Christ truly became a man for us, truly died for us, and truly defeated death for us. We are thankful for the reality of the resurrection that is ours because of His love. We are thankful for the forgiveness of our sins. We have so many sins, so many burdens that we carry. Yet, the Lord in His mercy, has carried them for us and wiped away our sins.
We are thankful that we can come here and pray together and receive the body and blood of Christ together as One body. We are thankful that He loves us so much that He allows us to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to unite with us.
We are thankful that God has heard our pains and concerns and He answers us. He has not abandoned anyone or left anyone without His presence. He has been with us.
In today’s gospel reading we hear about the ten lepers that came and asked the Lord Jesus for healing. They cried out “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” And by the power of His word, they were healed! You wonder why I emphasize reading the gospels every day? Because His word is healing and power.
Suddenly as the ten lepers left to return to the priests to show themselves, they began to rejoice as their dreams came true. The impossible became possible. They were healed! They could return to their lives, to their loved ones, they could again become part of the community. And to they went off rejoicing in their blessings! But what was the problem? The problem was that 9 of the 10 forgot to acknowledge God and start by giving thanks and showing gratitude for all that the Lord Jesus Christ had done for them.
When we teach children to say thank you, it is not simply a matter of having good manners. It is a matter of changing their way of thinking and bringing them to a sense of gratitude for everything in their lives. You don’t have everything in your life because of anything that you have done, but because of the love and care that others have shown you, most importantly because of the love of God. For this reason, the Lord seems stunned when the only leper to return and offer thanks was the Samaritan, not the others who presumably had been Jews who should have known a thing or two about thanksgiving and gratitude.
Having gratitude in your life can unlock many doors. It can change your life. How often do we start our day or end our evenings by thanking God for all of the blessings in our life? How often do we list them or contemplate the ways that He has taken care of us? Once you start down that road, everything else is transformed. Instead of complaining when we don’t get our way, we start to think “if God has always provided for me, and loves me, perhaps He is witholding this thing for my benefit.” Or we might say “I trust that the Lord will provide for me according to His good will.” When we show gratitude to God, we cannot help but then have that gratitude flow to others around us. I pray that we are not acting contrary to this through our attitudes and actions.
As I’ve said, gratitude can unlock many doors in your life. It can even help us to unlock the doors of salvation. One of the great modern theologians and priests of our time, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, during his last ever sermon, on Thanksgiving day, offered these words “Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.” May we learn this spirit of thanksgiving to the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN.