Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
October 13th, 2013
Year C

Just the other day I was having a conversation with some friends of mine about ‘thank you’ notes. Growing up, my mother always taught us to say ‘thank you’ whenever someone did something nice for us. We bought or made ‘thank you’ cards when we were invited to someone’s home for dinner, when we received gifts on birthdays and Christmas. ‘Thank you’ was common parlance in my home. The conversation I had with my friends on this matter was how uncommon this once common courtesy has become. Some people just do not think to say thank you. Even when I was ordained a priest 5 years ago, as I was opening my ordination gifts, mom was keeping track of who gave what so that I would know when I wrote my ‘thank you’ notes. What has happened? Why has a simple ‘thank you’ become so rare these days?

Before we think that this lack of gratitude is a modern day problem, the gospel clearly shows us otherwise. Ten lepers approach Jesus. They stand at distance because it was not proper for them to get close to other people, as persons “unclean.” Lepers were considered the rejects of society. St. Luke reports that they were so far away from Jesus they had to raise their voices. It only shows that they dare not get close. Still, they manifest great courage by approaching the Lord as well as faith in His power to heal them. Their obedience to His instruction to show themselves to the priests is also indicative of their faith.

The plot thickens, however, when only one of them returns to say ‘thank you.’ St. Luke tells us that the Samaritan, the foreigner, is the only one to come back. We can notice how earlier the lepers had to shout to get the attention of Jesus. Now, not only healed but also restored to society, the one former leper comes right up to Jesus, falling at His face. Jesus gives them back their dignity. One would think that this would be something worth a ‘thank you’ – particularly to the Son of God!

St. Luke records this encounter with Jesus in order to teach us something about the nature of gratitude.  Notice what the grateful leper does when realizes he has been healed – he praises God. Gratefulness, acts of thanksgiving teach us to lift our hearts to God. Gratitude keeps our attention on God's goodness to us, on the expressions of His love for us. It makes sure we never forget that we are loved - which is the only source of lasting joy in this world full of difficulties. When we neglect it, we start focusing on ourselves, on our own achievements, on our own desires - but none of those things can satisfy this fundamental need of our soul. Just as no reservoir can keep itself full - it needs to be fed by a source outside itself, higher than itself. When we find ourselves becoming habitually bitter, angry, frustrated, stressed, or depressed, it’s because our reservoir is getting low. That’s when we need to turn to God and His love, and open the floodgates of gratitude. The virtue of gratitude brings us out of ourselves and as such as can be considered a remedy for sin. For sin is selfishness, self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and self-absorption. Gratitude, however, keeps us grounded in truth and humility. It reminds us that we are loved and that we are to return that love to others.

Now God Himself, in His Son Jesus, has given us the greatest and most perfect gift that any person could possibly give – He created us and redeemed us. How do we say ‘thank you’ to that? There is no possible human way that would be a sufficient act of thanksgiving to God. Therefore, He Himself gave us a way to offer a perfect act of thanksgiving. This act of thanksgiving is so important that He placed it at the very heart of our worship – the celebration of the Eucharist. The term ‘Eucharist’ means ‘thanksgiving.’ This just goes to show how important gratitude is to God. This is why we don’t stay home on Sunday’s and pray “in our own way” or go out on nature hikes. What happens here, on this altar, in this community, is far greater than any human means of thanksgiving. The Eucharist is Christ himself, truly present, His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine. And since Christ is present in this sacrament, so are all of Christ's actions and prayers, most especially, His self-sacrifice on the cross. By uniting our minds and hearts - and even our bodies, through Holy Communion - to Christ's own self-offering in the Eucharist, our human prayer of thanksgiving becomes divine. And so, we are able to properly say thank you to God, as we ought to, as we want to, and as He truly deserves.

Let us be grateful to God, then, for everything. For gratitude raises our hearts and minds to Him. Let us thank Him for blessings, for peacefulness, friendships, family, for difficulties, illnesses, hardship – everything. Let us give everything to Him, spiritually placing it all in the bread and in the wine, so that in this divine encounter, as a reward for our gratitude, He may say to us: “your faith has made you well.”









Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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