After speaking with a priest about the losses and struggles I’ve experienced this past year, he inquired gently: “Are you through the dark valley?” I replied, “I think so.” Later, as I reflected on his question, I recognized all the ways God had worked through family, friends and even chance meetings throughout the year. I realized I was truly blessed, and my heart overflowed with thanksgiving!
In this Sunday’s Gospel, 10 lepers were healed but only one returned to give thanks. He, the Samaritan and outsider, knew the depth of his healing, the relief of his pain and his inclusion back into the community — all blessing. Most important, he realized the source of his healing — Jesus. Because of this understanding, he became the “one” to return “glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.”
The key to being the one who returns — the one who lives in the light — the one who gives thanks is to know one’s self as blessed and a blessing. We give thanks for what is, what has been and for the blessings to come. We shower others with blessings! We trust, and we give thanks! We receive, and we give thanks! We are poured out and give thanks! We become eucharistic people who reach high in praise and bow low in thanksgiving to God. Eucharistic people taken, blessed, broken and given for others.
As parents and grandparents, we name grace — God’s generous presence — each time we model for our children as the one who regularly gives thanks. We help our children to appreciate every little thing as a gift and then to give thanks to the giver. We lead them into an evening examen, focusing on each blessing of the day: the classmate who picked up their pencil; the friend who shared his lunch; the sibling who helped with a chore; the beauty of the sunrise; the crunch of autumn leaves. We help our children to become the one who returns by affirming their goodness and beauty — and give thanks to God for their sheer existence. Each time I talk to my grandson Bobby, I always say, “Bobby, you’re such a blessing to me!” He answers, “I know I am and to my mom and my dad and my sister!”
Though my father’s death was a huge loss, there were also countless blessings: he lived to a ripe old age; he never complained; always thankful; friends brought comfort and cookies; he spent his last Christmas (one week before his death) singing (whispering) carols and saying prayers. When I think of the blessings that occurred at Dad’s death, my heart soars with thanksgiving. Likewise, my husband has been dealing with health issues this past year, but when I remember how blessed we’ve been with the birth of two new granddaughters, a son’s graduation, a son’s ordination, and the many family members and friends who have lightened our load, how can I do anything but fall at the feet of Jesus in thanksgiving!
Ten lepers were healed, but only one returned in thanksgiving. The challenge is to be the one. The one who consistently — day in and day out, moment by moment — gives thanks to God for every single gift in our lives. The one who recognizes the blessings — no matter how painful a loss or difficult a situation. Jesus is waiting for us to return to him in thanksgiving — especially in the Eucharist. We can be the one. Now, that’s good news!
How will you help your child to be the one who returns in thanksgiving?