Gratitude vs. Control

(October 9, 2022)

Bottom line: Let go of that inordinate desire for control. Instead be like the Samaritan leper who returned to thank Jesus.

In this homily I will be talking about gratitude vs. control - or to be more precise, the inordinate desire for control that can only be overcome by learning gratitude.

Let's start with a humorous comparison: dogs and cats. You know I have a puppy, Rosie Cotton. Three members of my priest prayer group are cat owners. I found an article titled "study shows that dog owners are happier." But then later there was an article "study shows cat owners are more intelligent." They laughed when I showed them the articles. I told them, "I know you guys are smarter than me, but I'll take 'happier' any day."

The thing about dogs is that they are grateful. If children come up to pet Rosie, she will go from child to child as long as they keep it up. On the other hand when I am with my priest friends, once in the while one of their cats will jump on my lap and let me pet them. But it's clear that it's all on the cat's term. It's like he's doing me a favor. He's the one in control.

Now, human beings seem born with a desire to control. It's necessary for survival But we can learn gratitude like in today's Gospel. Jesus cures ten lepers. But only one comes back to thank Jesus. Jesus says, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"

The other nine may have had good reasons, but the fact is they wanted to exercise their new freedom and control: get certified by the priests, start making money, maybe buy some wine, get a girl friend, take advantage of all the things they had missed out on. But would they be happy? There is only one path to happiness - gratitude.

I remember when I was in Peru I blessed the home of a family who, after a few years of work, had finally purchased a tin roof for their adobe home. It was a joyful occasion and they were so thankful to God. When I got back to the U.S., I visited a man who had a beautiful home and yard. I told him that he must be very happy. He gave a begrudging yes, but then pointed to a bush and said - "look at the lousy job the landscapers did in trimming that shrub."

A person can have very little and be happy if he has gratitude. On the other hand, a person can have everything and be miserable if he lacks gratitude. That's the situation with a lot of people today - particularly our children. Let's face it, never has any society had so much abundance, so much freedom and so many opportunities as we do. But we also have higher levels of depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts.

In our faith formation we have been focusing on gratitude for gifts of God's creation. Like our Psalm today says, "Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands:break into song; sing praise." We should praise God for the amazing world he has entrusted to us. Our children, for example, are asked to identify created things they are thankful for - and to recognize that we have a duty to care for God's creation.

One small example: when I had my class reunion at St. Meinrad's in Indiana, we had a chance to visit some of the nearby towns. I noticed how well kept up they are and how streets and public areas are practically litter free. Then I got back to Monroe. As I went out for walks, I noticed how much litter we have, including on our church property. God has given us a beautiful world and we should gratefully care for it.

St. Paul sets a great example of gratitude. He's writing from prison which is no picnic. Even Monroe prison is worse than any hotel you and I have ever stayed at. But a Roman prison involves intentional mistreatment. Yet Paul says, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal." Then he adds, "But the word of God is not chained. Therefore, I bear with everything 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."

Even chained in a prison, Paul found reason to rejoice. So what about you and me? I know some of you are going through some terrible situations. But I ask you to think about Paul, especially what he says about Jesus, "If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him."

Look for a reason for gratitude. Be like Rosie Cotton, not like my friends' pampered cats. Let go of that inordinate desire for control. Instead be like the Samaritan leper who returned to thank Jesus. And Jesus says to him, ""Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."

**********

It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home,  whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation

Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the
Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it”.

Laudato Si 153

From Archives (Homilies for Twenty-Seventh Sunday, Year C): Joseph Man of Quiet Courage (Audio homily for 27th Sunday, Year C 2016)

Geography of Faith: Part 4 (Audio homily for 27th Sunday, Year C 2013)

From Archives (Homilies for Twenty-Sixth Sunday, Year C):

2019: The Certitude of Faith
2016: Boots Laced Week 3: A Just Man
2013: Geography of Faith: The Return from Exile
2010: Questions That Lead to Faith
2004: The Greatest Power
2001: Increase Our Faith
1998: Lord, Increase our Faith

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.

Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

Parish Picture Album

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Home

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.

Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

And don't miss Catholic Liturgy & Homily Prep

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

Parish Picture Album

(current)

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

Home