It is an odd year, to be thinking about what we are thankful for.
At thanksgiving dinner tables, today in Canada, as families and friends gather, I wonder if there will be a pause, or perhaps a reluctance to ask the simple question
that we ask each other every year?
What are you thankful for?
Perhaps there are people missing from the dinner table, due to travel, or perhaps even a more immediate loss. Perhaps this year has simply been one that we don’t want to be thankful for.
That pause or hesitation that we may have, shouldn’t be overlooked. Because this practice was not created to ignore real pain or issues, we don’t blissfully say what we are thankful for, whilst someone whistles the tune to “always look on the bright side of life”.
Gratitude is something that grounds us, it connects us to our life story, it bonds us to those we love.
If you stop and think about it, this practice says so much about our inclinations in the modern world, it is as if, in our culture, we have decided to be openly thankful,
one day a year, because we so often forget to show it to those we love. This year more than most, so many of us have spent more time at home and seen others less than we do normally. The bubbles that we have created with those closest to us,
will for many be the same faces that we will share dinner with today, and for many, a quiet evening of isolation might be all you can risk.
So ask yourself this question. Do those I love and care for, truly know what I am thankful for? Do they truly know how much they mean to me?
As we sit with the Gospel story of Jesus healing the ten lepers today, reading this story in the world that we live in right now, it is a healthy reminder to notice how we interpret scripture. A simple reading of this story may show significance in Jesus breaking down the barriers of his culture, to touch those who were considered untouchable, calling us to do the same. But in our world right now, offering someone a hug or shaking hands is not brave or noble, it is irresponsible and puts all of us at risk. So the question that we need to ask ourselves instead is:
What does this story teach us about healing in our context of today?
There are two levels, or two ways of thinking about healing that this story teaches us. To be healed in the life and ministry of Jesus, was not simply to experience physical restoration, it was to glimpse into the divine.
To experience the power and love of God in an intimately personal way. Healing through Christ was not just physical, it was a healing of the soul. We see this in the story because the 9 lepers who did not return to Jesus, were healed on one level.
But the Samaritan man who came back and showed his gratitude, experiences these remarkable words, “Get up and go on your way; your FAITH has made you well.”
That faith, his conviction in the one who restored his body, was what had brought his true healing.
How can we translate this to our world today? What does this story say about the way we experience healing in our lives? It says that healing doesn’t just appear in a miraculous physical restoration, healing can take place in the quiet of our hearts,
when we feel God’s peace in a moment of despair. Healing can be when we overcome trauma through the help of others, healing is when the bonds of family or friendship once broken, are mended. Healing doesn’t take place through our own strength alone, it is through connection and love that form this foundation, on which healing can begin to take place.
When we feel safe, when we are cared for and loved, healing takes place in our lives every day.
And it is when we recognize this, that thankfulness can begin to flourish.
Thankfulness is reciprocal, when we are shown love and we are thankful, it breathes life into those around us, it inspires faith, it heals our very souls. Being thankful is not simply thanking others, we don’t credit the Samaritan Leper who thanked Jesus simply because he remembered to go back and thank him.
What we are seeing is a human, so overjoyed by their healing that their attitude and instinct through faith overflowed initiating the action of gratitude.
This is the type of thankfulness that we seek to achieve, one that flows through our thoughts into our actions, where instead of seeking gratitude in times of scarcity,
like at the dinner table reflecting on the past year, we begin to embody thankfulness in our character; where we lift others up, where we recognize the things that are done for us and thus we instinctively begin to do those things for others.
And I wonder what would happen if we went beyond this instinct to intentionality.
This is how we move from a place of scarcity to abundance.
Psychologists from Harvard University say that thankfulness works like this. Our brain chemistry actually reacts and changes, they say: “Gratitude helps us feel more positive emotions, that we relish good experiences, we improve our health, we deal with adversity, and we build stronger relationships” All through gratitude
That’s amazing isn’t it? Our Creator instilled this in us, we were conceived to be thankful and caring creatures. The more we share with gratitude, the happier we are.
Our faith and love inspires others, and we are healed by these things. Healed not simply in bodily sickness, but from our selfish desires and our inclination to shut the world out from our hearts. As Christians, our faith is what calls us into righteousness through our communal action. In the Church all our action is collective, when we pray together, when we experience the sacraments together, when we confess our faith together, we do so because our faith is not limited to ourselves.
Again, being thankful is not simply thanking other people.
Thankfulness is understanding the connectedness of our place and action. It is thinking of where the food on our plates came from, the creativity and the passion of those in the kitchen who prepare it. It is knowing that other people have believed in you, sacrificed their own desires to invest their love, time, and money in you. It is appreciating the things that we have, the air that we breathe, the place where we live, and where we call home, knowing that we are blessed to be doing so.
And finally being truly thankful is the outward expression of living our lives knowing these things, to share our time, our money and our love with others.
Today, Consider what ways you might inspire healing, through love and connection this thanksgiving. Remember, we love others because we know that we were loved first.