How often do we say “Thank you”?
Is it simply a polite or nice thing to do? Or does it have a deeper and more powerful meaning because we are Christian?
While a cheerful, thankful person is easier to be around, the Christian understanding of Thanksgiving has a much deeper meaning. In our Gospel today, we have the witness of the Samaritan leper returning to Jesus to give thanks. Jesus’ reply speaks of the depth and power of the Samaritan’s trust and gratitude. Jesus not only healed him but also told him to “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
Giving thanks has opened up a way to salvation. This is what is behind our celebration of the Mass. The Mass is also called the “Eucharist,” which means “thanksgiving” in Greek. This is the same word used to describe the thanksgiving by the Samaritan today. The action of giving thanks when we encounter Christ, not only heals us, but grants us salvation.
The practice of thanksgiving in our daily lives is a critical aspect of our Christian lives. Are we thankful for what we have been given, even the challenges? It is more than just an optimistic way of looking at life, or looking at life through rose-colored glasses. The process of giving thanks calls us to something much deeper. As the Samaritan shows us, he was honest enough with himself to know that he needed help. With humility, he cried out, “Have pity on me.” He experienced and acknowledged that he was healed. He asked himself what it meant, and who had healed him. He went back to the source of his healing and dropped to his knees in thanksgiving. The Samaritan learned the truth about himself, acted in faith, and discovered that Jesus had even more to offer than mere physical healing. His ability to say thank you opened up an entirely new world of salvation.
How can we make thankfulness a habit? One way is through daily prayer. Beginning or ending your day by saying thanks to God and asking for his help can keep things in perspective and build up faith. At Sunday Mass, after receiving Communion, it is important to say a simple prayer of gratitude for Jesus coming to be with us through the Eucharist, and for the sacrifice he made to save us from our sins. This is what our Mass is supposed to be about - a thank you that brings salvation.
May you be blessed and strengthened by our celebration of the Eucharist (Thanksgiving) today.
In Christ, Fr David