Gratitude is an attitude that has the force to overcome much of the ugly things we deal with in life. From the crazy, zany world of politics, to issues of life and death, and how hearts can be converted to a love for God rather than a love for passing things.
Gratitude, and maintaining its spirit throughout a given day, has the good power and capacity to turn the ugly into beautiful, the confusing into sense, hatred into love, and anger into forgiveness. All because we are grateful to God.
Grateful for what? For the gift of who you are, while not being a curmudgeon. For the gift of the blessing of years; honestly, if many of us moved on to eternal life this week, and we could look back a moment before we take our last breath, we could say, “God has been good to me with the amount of time I’ve been personally given to live and love, to enjoy the blessings of this world, and know in my heart I haven’t been cheated in days, months, or years.”
That’s not to say we don’t look forward to much more. I pray you do. But many of us can call it a day and know we haven’t been robbed of time. And be grateful for it before the heart stops beating. We always have more to do. But we can be satisfied with what we’ve accomplished.
And, the young folks should be grateful to God for the many good parents who guide them and lead them to a good place in life. We can tell how spiritually mature a youngster is by how aware they are of the blessings and good situation they have in life, and continually thank their parents and/or grandparents for all the sacrifices made over the years on their behalf. And be grateful they don’t live in a tent behind City Hall or under some bridge.
Faith was the word last week, and commanding Jesus to increase that fundamental virtue in our lives. This week the word is gratitude. A virtue to be grateful for. Being grateful bonded with humility. Humility is not a first cousin to gratitude. Humility and gratitude are siblings; of the same flesh and blood. It’s not possible to offer to God or anyone else genuine gratitude absent a profound sense of humility.
So, the lepers are over in their own special corner of the world. A corner created special for them. “You got rotting skin? Go over there and stay there, away from everyone else, except those who are like you.” Lepers were confined, restricted, in a real sense imprisoned. Not behind bars or in dungeons. But territory-wise, they had they own little forced corner of the world with like members of the Rotting Skin Club. Where skin rots and falls off like a real-life horror movie. No directors, no producers, no actors and actresses. Just a real life 1st century horror flick.
Obviously, they heard about the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Otherwise, they wouldn’t yell out at the top of their lungs from a distance, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us.” In that request, in that command, another command this week directed at Jesus to show pity, there’s the potential for a volcano of gratitude ready to erupt.
Thankfully, our Lord’s hearing is very good. However, hearing his name yelled out by a group of confined lepers doesn’t guarantee good results. But Jesus is having a good day and he’s in a good mood. He feels like revealing his loving power. ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.”
So off they fly. The 10 of them. To the priests to be unconfined. As they go, the volcano of gratitude is welling up, moving closer to the top of the mountain. And as they realize God has performed another special act of love on their behalf, he has spilt the Red Sea in two again for them, cleansing their rotted flesh, the eruption of gratitude begins. Mt. Vesuvius and Mt. St. Helen’s pour forth their ashes of gratitude.
Here’s the lynchpin point. Which direction do we go? Do we run away from that territory of confinement as far as we can go? Run to another country. Run to another god. Run back to my old life. Run to the moon now that I’m cured and free. All of which are the opposite direction from “Jesus, Master!” Is the eruption of my gratitude heading in a misplaced direction?
Or, do we go back to the Source of all blessings? Where the eruption of our gratitude returns to Pure Goodness in the Person of Jesus Christ.
It’s hard to believe that the hearts of 9 lepers were not filled with gratitude when they realized they were cured from such a dreaded disease. Just like it’s hard to believe a teenager lacks gratitude for all that parents sacrifice for them. But it’s possible. It’s possible for a heart to be that confined, that restricted, in a territory of prison, behind barbed wire fences.
The invitation of Jesus is to travel back each day in the direction that returns to him, to extend gratitude, even to the point of our suffering. Only he can demand such, because he carried a Cross for you.
Gratitude is easy when heaven is upon us; when we know it’s heaven touching us. Like 10 lepers who were personally touched by heaven. But even then, the worst decision can be made by not returning to Christ to offer thanks.
Genuine gratitude offers thanks to
God in the good times and rough times. Early in life, at the end of life, and
in the mid-years. May we never lose sight of the one cure that has touched all
of us. The cure of the Cross of Jesus Christ that has won for you and me an everlasting
victory over rotting flesh. The cure of our bodily resurrection.