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Sunday, October 9, 2016

How grateful are you?

This is a commentary on the Sunday Gospel that has made me reflect:
"We will not take full possession of our lives until we learn to give thanks for them. We don’t really own our legs or eyes, our hands and skin unless we’re daily grateful. We don’t really live with our loved ones unless we foster an appreciative, almost contemplative sensitivity to their presence. It is only the loss of them—or the threat of it—that shakes us into an awareness of their manifold grace.
But when we wake up from our sleepwalk, when we see the wonder of the smallest parts of our existence, we begin to live. It is then we know what it is like, with the tenth leper, to be saved.
Perhaps the most grateful person I’ve ever heard of was an old woman in an extended care hospital. She had some kind of wasting disease, her different powers fading away over the march of months. A student of mine happened upon her on a coincidental visit. The student kept going back, drawn by the strange force of the woman’s joy. Though she could no longer move her arms and legs, she would say, “I’m just so happy I can move my neck.” When she could no longer move her neck, she would say, “I’m just so glad I can hear and see.”
When the young student finally asked the old woman what would happen if she lost her sense of sound and sight, the gentle lady said, “I’ll just be so grateful that you come to visit.” There was an uncommon freedom in that student’s eyes as she told me of her friend. Somehow a great enemy had been disarmed in her life.
Gratitude not only empowers the receiver of the gift; it confirms the giver. “You really believe I love you,” the giver says in the heart.
It is truly wondrous when others actually believe you love them. It is glorious when someone thanks you.
Might God be more interested in our gratitude than anything else? Was the primal sin ingratitude?
The healed leper, Naaman, proclaimed to Elisha, “Now I know there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” How God must have delighted.
And Christ, having healed ten, saw something greater in the one Samaritan who made time to come back, fall at his feet, and praise God. He saw the splendor of a human heart that believes it is loved, that accepts the gift. Such faith not only brings salvation. It is the gift back to God, so enchanting that God would die for love of it.

John Kavanaugh, SJ

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