“The Goal of Being Ever Thankful”

 

 October 9, 2016: The Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time    (Proper 23)

2 Kings 5: 8 – 15/ Psalm 111/ 2 Timothy 2: 8 – 15/ Luke 17: 11 - 19

 

Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos

 

 

We are abundantly blessed! We have more than ten thousand reasons to thank God for!  We have really nothing to complain about! 

 

The gospel today encourages us and reminds us to be thankful.  It is a matter of learning to count our blessings.  As human beings, we tend to magnify the small things and we tend to overlook the big things.  In your Christian life, the blessings far outweigh what we think are sufferings, a thorn in the flesh, or a reason to complain.  God has blessed us!  He is our God; we are His people. What more can we ask for?   

 

Looking at the gospel, I would like us to see that leprosy was our former spiritual condition.  In the Old Testament, lepers were looked down as people who must have done something seriously wrong and that God was judging them. Sickness was a result of sin and leprosy was a sign of being cast out, isolated, ostracized and looked down upon.   They needed a certification from a priest that they were cleansed, healed, and restored from their sinfulness.

 

This was who we were in our spiritual condition.  We were not just sick with leprosy; we were dead in our sins and trespasses, and God healed us.  Jesus healed ten lepers and only one realized how thankful he should be.  It wasn’t just a healing of the skin, but a restoration of life.   Whereas you were excluded from God’s people, now, you can join back in being a citizen.  The one who was thankful realized that he can now have a life and he can join God’s people and worship God with them. 

 

The nine lepers must also have faith, and they obeyed; and this is why they were healed on the way.  They were not healed instantly; they had to have faith in Jesus’ word when He commanded them to show themselves to the priest. Showing themselves to the priest signify that the priest certified their healing of their sickness that they can come back into the assembly.   

 

Were the nine lepers condemned because they did not give thanks?  No, they were healed and God restored them.  God did not take this away from them, but thanksgiving is not a matter of requirement. Thanksgiving is a matter of the heart voluntarily giving to God.  It should come from our heart.  God wants us to realize the life that He restored to us.  This confronts us because the one leper who gave thanks was a foreigner, a Samaritan – not a child of God.  He had faith; he anticipated his healing, and he thanked God for his healing.

In the first reading, Naaman was a Gentile and yet he was thankful.  He gave an offering as an evidence of his thankfulness to the man of God.  He struggled a little, but he obeyed and had faith.  He anticipated his healing that is why he went to the river Jordan, gave of himself voluntarily, and gave an offering.   

 

In the Old Testament, it was a requirement to present an offering to the priest. It was a foreshadowing of the real true things that were to come.  In the New Testament, we go an extra mile in obeying it.  Now, the law is not on stone, but on our heart.   God does not desire sacrifice and offering, but it is our heart as evidenced by our giving and obeying.  If thanksgiving comes voluntary, it indicates a genuine transformation.  This validates our healing and restoration. A lack of gratefulness may suggest a lack of partaking of the Divine nature. 

 

God is self-sufficient.  God does not need anything from anyone. Praising Him is not about feeding His ego or flattering Him with eloquent words that we can come up with.  Neither is giving an offering to Him about supplying His need. There is nothing we can do, nothing that we can say, nothing that we can give that can add to His wealth, to His stature, and even to His ego. 

 

Why does He still command us to give thanks and to give offerings?  This is because He wants us to be thankful and to realize the blessings that He has given to us.  He wants us to partake of the Divine nature and to be ever giving and ever blessing.  God always gives, which is His nature.  In the first place, He doesn’t need anything and He doesn’t need to withhold anything.  It is about us validating and proving His work in us.  

 

The thankful leper, giving thanks to Jesus, was expressing and testifying that He indeed was healed by God, that God indeed did a good work in Him.  It is about us actualizing or living out His work in us of His ever blessing nature in us.  The thankful leper just got more of an affirmation from the Israelite priest. He got His affirmation from the Great High Priest Himself.   He first showed himself to Jesus, and then, he got the validation of his healing. 

 

In Matthew 8, Jesus told this leper, “Go, show yourself to the priest, and present the offering that Moses commanded as a testimony.”  Our thanksgiving and our offerings to God are a testimony of our thanks and His work in us.  The reason we evangelize is because we are witnesses in saying that God has done something good in our lives.   We witness as a testimony of this.  This is what offerings are all about.  It is also about us fulfilling our priesthood.  We are a priest.  God has made us kings and priests to serve Him. One major thing that a priest does is to offer sacrifices.  He presents offerings and as king, he leads all of creation in giving thanks and offerings to God. 

 

There is the Canticle, “A Song of Creation” in the Daily Office that is prescribed to be used on a Saturday morning. Saturday signifies the seventh day, the day after God created everything and finished His work.  Man, after God has given him life and created him, leads all of creation in thanksgiving offering to God and to bless Him, to magnify Him and to praise Him.   

 

 A Song of Creation (Benedicite Omnia Opera Domini)

 

O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.
O ye angels of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye heavens, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye waters that be above the firmament, bless ye the Lord;
O all ye powers of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye sun and moon, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye stars of heaven, bless ye the Lord;
O ye showers and dew, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye winds of God, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye fire and heat, bless ye the Lord;
O ye winter and summer, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye dews and frosts, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye frost and cold, bless ye the Lord;
O ye ice and snow, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye nights and days, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye light and darkness, bless ye the Lord;
O ye lightnings and clouds, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

O let the earth bless the Lord; *
    O ye mountains and hills, bless ye the Lord;
O all ye green things upon the earth, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye wells, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye seas and floods, bless ye the Lord;
O ye whales and all that move in the waters, bless ye the Lord;
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

O all ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord; *
    O all ye beasts and cattle, bless ye the Lord;
O ye children of men, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye people of God, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye priests of the Lord, bless ye the Lord;
O ye servants of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

O ye spirits and souls of the righteous, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye holy and humble men of heart, bless ye the Lord.
Let us bless the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

We have many, many reasons to praise Him.  If it comes from our heart, then, it indicates that indeed, God has healed us.  Indeed, God has brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.  It also indicates that we indeed are a Eucharistic thankful people.   We bless Him; we give to Him back because it validates His nature in us of ever blessing and ever giving. 

 

Again, God is self-sufficient. You cannot make Him any richer.   The reason we give and express our thanks is because of His great work that He has done for us.   We are fulfilling our priesthood and we offer sacrifices to Him.  If we are not voluntarily presenting offerings to Him, we are not fulfilling our goal as priests.  What happens is that creation, who we are supposed to lead, is left longing for us to lead them. 

 

How do you feel when public servants do not act and fulfill their role as servants of the people?  We get upset and we long for a righteous political administration.  This is what creation expects of us.  This is what the world expects of us – the kings and priests – for us to fulfill our role.

 

In the Old Testament, there were lots of commands and giving thanks was a requirement.  Because we are the people of God and we understand that the law is not written on the stone anymore but written in our hearts, so coming from our heart, we obey.  As servants of God, we thank Him.   We are a Eucharistic people.  Eucharist means thanksgiving; Eucharistic means thankful. We call ourselves a Eucharistic Community of God’s faithful people.

 

In Luke 17:7, Jesus was talking about a slave that after a whole day’s work in the field, he comes home and the master tells him, “You may be tired, but you have to cook for me as your master.  Then, clean yourself before you serve me. After which, you may eat.”   Jesus said that a thanks to the slave, coming from the master, is not even in order. God is our Master.  He doesn’t thank us. We thank Him because of the great things He has done for us.  He has given us life.  We thank God because it is meet, right and a good and joyful thing to do always and everywhere.

 

During the Great Thanksgiving, the Presider says, “It is meet, right and a good and joyful thing and we do well to always and everywhere to give You thanks.”  Sometimes, it is said, “It is a good and joyful thing and it is our salvation that we give You thanks.”   Giving thanks to God is living out the life that He has given to us, which is the eternal life.   It is a bounden duty, but I want to go beyond this.   It is more than a duty and we do well always and everywhere to give Him thanks.  What follows this statement by the Presider is an enumeration of the good things that God has done for us.  

 

In one of the Prefaces, it says that it is a good and joyful thing to give thanks because of what God has done to us. After all the enumeration, it says, “Therefore, we praise You.”  It doesn’t say, “It is good and right and a joyful thing always and everywhere to give You thanks because it was commanded by Moses to give an offering.”  We praise God for what He has done for us, not because of a consequence or of fear, but of thankfulness.  We praise Him because God went beyond what justifiably He could have done.  He voluntarily gave us something that we did not deserve. 

 

Reflecting His nature, we voluntarily also give thanks.   God did it all for us and we can’t do anything but to praise Him for His work and because we are thankful.    Liturgy trains us to be ever-thankful.  Liturgy is the Eucharist. There is the Great Thanksgiving.  We enumerate God’s deeds and the work that He has done for us.

 

Malachi 1:11 says, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the Name of the Lord will be praised and in every place, incense and a grain offering will be offered in My name.”  This is because His kingdom is a Kingdom of a thankful people.  It is catholic, meaning, always and everywhere, we give thanks to God.

 

During a House of Bishops, while riding on a bus, I remember seeing an elderly woman begging in Rome.  He was knocking on the window of a car, and suddenly the window rolled down.  She was given a coin.  What I saw next brought a tear to my eye.  She looked up to heaven with clasp hands seemingly to thank God for the coin.  In my thought, “God gives me more than coins, and I take that for granted and I complain.”  What a slap in my face and what an awakening it was for me. 

 

We are blessed! We just don’t know it or we forget it many times.  Remember the story of the widow’s mite who gave two copper coins?  Jesus said that she gave the most because she gave out of her poverty.  She did not just fulfill a requirement; she did not just give a percentage prescribed to a command in the Old Testament.  She gave out of poverty.  The others may have given more in amount, but they did not give more.  She gave from her heart, from what she had lived on.  If we give voluntarily, this shows how thankful we are.  

 

David said in 2 Samuel 24:24, “I will not offer burnt offering to the Lord that will not cost me anything.”   It has to cost us something to show and to demonstrate how thankful we are.  We are a thankful people and that is our nature for this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God. 

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