We are now in the 28th week of Ordinary Time. The theme of this Sunday’s readings is gratitude. What is gratitude? Gratitude is a virtue which is very much at the heart of our search for happiness in this world and in the next. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that God wants us to be happy. God has planted a desire for happiness within each of our hearts, a desire for a sense of well-being and commitment. This desire for happiness can sometimes lead us toward an unhealthy preoccupation with material possessions, power, or pleasure, or it can also lead us to God, Who alone can satisfy the human heart. We need to make a conscious choice. We recognize, however, that things of this world may only bring us momentary happiness. Therefore, we need to say, as does St. Augustine, “Our heart is restless until it rests in God.”
In the first reading, Naaman, the Syrian military commander, was an outcast, not only because of his leprosy; he was also a non–believer and a pagan. He was an outcast to people, but not for God. God cured him through His servant Elisha. Naaman acknowledged his cure, and, as a sign of his gratitude, he transferred his allegiance from his pagan god to the God of Israel.
In the second reading, Paul faced many challenges while preaching the word of God. However, these challenges did not stop his preaching because Paul knew that his work would bring him ultimate happiness. Therefore, Paul says that he is willing to accept suffering—“even to the point of chains, like a criminal”—as a grateful Apostle of Jesus, “for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory.” Paul sought not only his own happiness, but the happiness of others through his preaching and sharing of faith.
In the Gospel we have the story of the pagan leper who returned to thank Jesus for healing him, while nine other Jewish lepers went their way without any expression of gratitude to Him after they were healed. Jesus painfully asked the single leper who had returned to Him, “Where are the other nine?” Jesus’ question demonstrates that even a generous God wants us to show gratitude, to be a grateful people. The readings also demonstrate the universal love of God for all peoples, including the Samaritans and the pagans, Israel’s enemies whom Naaman represented.
We, however, can demonstrate our gratitude to our ever-providing God in many ways. For instance, we have spent the last few weeks promoting eGiving (electronic giving), and encouraging parishioners to sign up for this convenient method of donating. EGiving is an easy, convenient and consistent method of giving available to parishioners. Consistent giving is one way of showing gratitude to God and sharing our blessings with the parish community.
We can also show gratitude to God in many other ways: by forgiving others, radiating His love, mercy and compassion to others, including our families and friends, and by taking care of our elderly parents. By showing gratitude to our aging parents, we recognize in particular all the sacrifices they made in raising us. Let us show our gratitude for our many blessings in as many ways possible, as often as we possibly can.
We come together to celebrate the Holy Eucharist every week. The word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” When we celebrate Holy Mass, we are thanking God for giving us the great gift of His Son in the Holy Eucharist so that we can share His Divine Life and recharge our spiritual batteries. As Saint Augustine beautifully said, the Holy Eucharist is God’s greatest gift to humanity. In the Eucharistic celebration, we express our gratitude to God for many things, including our wonderful parish community, Santa Sophia, where we share our time, talents, and material blessings in the various ministries and services of the parish and by our active participation in its outreach programs in the community.