Recently when a small group of seniors had lunch together to celebrate their 80th year a picture was posted on Facebook with the caption: “Celebrating 80 years of life and blessings. Grateful.”
A complete list of the things for which the group felt grateful could likely fill a page. However, for people celebrating their 80th year, one good reason to be thankful was just the fact that they were in relatively good health and able to go out to lunch together under their own power.
None of the group had any illusions about “life.” They had already outlived many of their contemporaries. They were also well aware that they didn’t cause their own lives. They held deep gratitude for their parents and for the Author of Life. They also knew that over the years, they had benefited from personal relationships and the resources of others. They had received so many gifts from people, from society and from God. Gratefully, these seniors celebrated “life and blessings.”
In the scriptures today, we have stories of people who received extraordinary blessings: healings from crippling and life-threatening disease that also excluded them from society. In the story from 2 Kings, Naaman was cured of leprosy. Naaman was overcome with gratitude and wanted to give a gift in thanksgiving for his cure. The prophet Elisha refused to accept his gift. So, Naaman asked for a substantial load of dirt from the territory of Israel. He wanted to build an altar of sacrifice on “Israeli soil” in his own country in gratitude to the God of Israel.
In the Gospel, we hear a situation similar to the story of Naaman. Ten persons suffering from leprosy encountered Jesus as he was entering a village. Excluded from society because of their illness, they called out to Jesus for help. Jesus responded to them. He sent them to the priests so that their healing could be verified. One of the 10 returned and thanked Jesus for curing him. Were not the others grateful? We do not know. But they did not return to say so.
Jesus comments about this. “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Gratitude is not just a social grace. Gratitude is a habit of the heart. None of us is our own source of existence or the source of all that we need to survive and flourish. All of life is a gift to us. Truly grateful persons acknowledge that they are recipients of countless gifts from others, from nature and from God. True gratitude springs from that essential insight.
The very word “gratitude” comes from the same root as the word “grace” — gift (Latin: gratia). Think: “grateful”; “graceful.” In Greek, grateful is eucharistain — the word we Christians use for our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The Eucharist is the ultimate act of gratitude, thanksgiving for life and salvation in Christ.
That’s why we are here today. We come to acknowledge and celebrate that we are grateful for everything from God, through Jesus Christ.
We began with a story about the gratitude of a group of 80-year-olds. Whether we are in our 80s, 40s, teens or younger, we all are called to have gratitude. Everything in our life is a gift, starting with life itself.
Gratitude enriches us: It opens us to experience the bounty of God and others. The more we become grateful people, the more we will find to be grateful.