The Power of Gratitude

(Homily for Thanksgiving Day)

Bottom line: By expressing gratitude we overcome sadness and cement relationships with each other - and with God.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. By coming to Mass today, you are thanking God in the best possible way. In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus underscores the importance of expressing gratitude: He praises the Samaritan who returned to thank him. He had cured ten lepers, but only one came back to say, "thank you."

Now, we should not be too hard on the other nine. After all, they were doing what Jesus told them: "Go show yourselves to the priests." They were obeying Jesus' instructions. The Samaritan, however, obeyed a deeper law: the law of gratitude. In our hearts, you and I know the importance of gratitude. We spend time teaching our children how to say "thank you," how to write a note of appreciation. But, then we adults often fail to take the time say, "thank you."

Sometimes we think, "Well, the other person knows I am grateful. Why belabor the obvious?" But the other guy does not know. Once I gave someone a gift - and then did not hear back from him. At first I assumed that he was grateful, but then began to wonder if I had offended him - or if he even got the gift. At a much later date, our paths crossed and I asked him if he received the present. "Oh, yes," he said, "thank you. I really appreciated it." I was relieved, but that experience made me reflect on my own failures to promptly express gratitude. The Samaritan gives us a wonderful example of prompt gratitude. The guy who has a grateful heart - and who expresses it in a sincere way - builds strong friendships. That applies not only on a human level, but also to our communication with God.

The power of gratitude can be seen by way of contrast. The opposite of gratitude is complaining. We complain because we are unhappy, ungrateful about our lives. A few weeks ago I received a book titled "A Complaint Free World." Priests and ministers receive a lot promotional books and videos, so at first I didn't pay much attention to it. But something about the title intrigued me: A Complaint Free World? How is that possible? The book lays out a plan for people to stop complaining and start enjoying life. It even has one of those rubber wrist bands. When a person falls into negativity and starts complaining about something, they are supposed to move the band from one wrist to the other. The book encourages priests and ministers to obtain a stop-complaining wrist band for every member of their congregation. Well, I haven't gone that far - but it is something to thing about. Most of our complaining and criticizing does little good, but a word of gratitude can make someone's day, maybe even change their life.

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It is a beautiful holiday. Jesus shows us the importance giving thanks. By expressing gratitude, we overcome sadness, we cement relationships with each other and with God:

"Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"
Then he said to him, "Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.

**********

General Intercessions (Prayers of the Faithful) for Thanksgiving Day Mass

From Archives (Thanksgiving Day Homilies):

The Fundamental Freedom - Freedom of Religion
Great Dividing Line
The Power of Gratitude
Thanksgiving and Salvation
Howard Hughes vs. Dostoevsky
The Radical Virtue
Thanksgiving Day 1988

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Good News in Stem Cell Research; Six Myths of Atheism & Philip Pullman's Golden Compass; First Anniversary Mass for Deputy Steve Cox)

Announcements

Billings Retreat on Amantani Island

Patients and Students Helped by Mary Bloom Center

Visit to Site of Peruvian Meteorite

Pictures of Earthquake Relief

SMV Bulletin

Parish Picture Album

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St. Mary of the Valley Album

(November 2009)

Pictures from Peru

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

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