Saturday, October 13, 2007

Giving thanks


“And he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.”

You know, w e hear and say the word “thanks” fairly often - though perhaps not often enough and usually without much thought. Thanksgiving Day is our most popular non-religious national holiday, yet few of us recognize and acknowledge the religious dimension of that day. Last Sunday’s parable of the master and servant reminded us that we are God’s servants and have no reason to expect God to thank us for doing what God asks of us. But while God may have no obligation to thank us, we certainly have an obligation to thank God. Today’s Scripture share with us strongly this theme of giving thanks to God.

The Hebrew word hodah, generally translated as “give thanks,” really means more fully to “confess, profess or state publicly.” In the Bible, to give thanks means to state publicly that at this moment God was at work. That moment could be the creation of the world or ancient Israel’s exodus from Egypt; that moment could be Noah on the seas, David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant, the night the wise men saw that star in the Heavens or the moment that Mary gave birth to a Savior. That moment could be personal too – our own rescue from danger or recovery from illness. Whatever the moment, thanksgiving in the Bible is always directed to God, and always involves a public profession and is profoundly religious.

In our first reading, Naaman the Syrian is healed from leprosy. His response is a great example of the biblical approach to thanksgiving. Having been healed of his leprosy, Naaman recognizes that God was powerfully at work through Elisha the prophet, and he makes a public profession of his conviction. He said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel” and promises to offer sacrifice only to Yahweh. Likewise, Psalm 98 is a public act of thanks for God’s goodness, “Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wondrous deeds!”

This concept of thanksgiving as public witness to God’s action is also brought out in our Gospel account of the healing of the 10 lepers. Jesus is on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem and these lepers approach him crying out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” When Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priests, they go on their way. This took great faith, since there had been no explicit healing action or word from Jesus. He didn’t say, “You are healed” or touch them, but rather just said, “Go.” But, they believed in Jesus’ power to heal them, and on their way they indeed were healed.

All’s well that ends well. Not quite. Only one of the healed lepers returns to Jesus to give public witness to God about his healing and so Jesus asks, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

The popular media have reduced the Thanksgiving holiday to football, turkey, sentimental family scenes and believe it or not – Christmas shopping. These things are fine in themselves, but they tend to obscure the real meaning of giving thanks as something intimately connected to our relationship with God. Thanksgiving begins with an acknowledgement of God’s actions in our world – in our lives – and on our behalf. In thanking God we proclaim publicly who God is (our creator, our redeemer, our sustainer, our healer), who we are (God’s servants) and what God has done for us individually and collectively.

You know, the word “Eucharist” means in Greek “thanksgiving.” When we celebrate the Eucharist – as we do today and every Sunday – we are proclaiming God’s mighty acts on our behalf, especially in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

We today are no different than Namaan or the 10 lepers. We too need to develop an attitude of gratitude; an awareness that we have indeed been blessed – blessed with family, friends, freedom, faith; blessed to be gathered here today as God’s holy people, in this holy place. God is real and He is constantly working on our behalf. Let us have hearts that are grateful and lives that proclaim that thanks to God for His profound action in our lives. Let us be the one among the many who return, glorifying God in a loud voice, falling at the feet of Jesus thanking Him.

Thank you Jesus.

May God give you peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment