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Saturday, October 12, 2013

10-13-2013 Thanking the Giver: the Eucharist

I just watched Fr. Robert Barron's review of the movie "Gravity" on his website  and was intrigued that the last words of the movie are a simple prayer: "thank you."  This was really cool to me because being thankful is the theme for today's readings.  Thankful for what? Well, that God loves you and shows His love ten times a day. Do you love Him? Do you thank Him ten times a day, or is it closer to one out of ten (like today's lepers)? Why are we so often forgetful and ungrateful?

Naaman was a foreigner, military general of Aram, a pagan, a leper, and extremely dangerous and unwelcome to the king of Israel. However, the formal guest marches in looking for a cure because of the witness of a slave of his, a Jewish girl, who told his wife he should to go to the prophet Elisha. Naaman must have been desperate and ashamed as he marches to an enemy king, is sent to Elisha, and is abruptly dismissed to go wash seven times in the Jordan River to be cured. He wanted flare and magic, but was instead told to work. When he finally puts his faith into practice, he is healed and begs Elisha to take some cash as a sign of his appreciation. Elisha refuses to let God be bought, and instead Naaman hauls a truck-load of earth back to his homeland so that he can worship the Lord God. Worship is the proper sign of thanksgiving.

The ten lepers today show their faith (and perhaps their desperation) when they cry out for Jesus to heal them. Then they have to put their faith into practice by going to the priests. When they are cured, it is the foreigner again who comes back to give thanks, “worshipping Jesus” (on his knees).

Fr. Emil Kapaun saved many of his fellow POW's in Ptotkong on the North Korean border of the Yalo River. The miracle of Fr. K. was not just that he patched leaky buckets or stole food. It was that he rallied men to embrace life when living looked hopeless. When starvation inspired betrayals, Kapaun inspired brotherhood. One day, as more men stole and hoarded food from each other, Kapaun walked into a hut, laid out his own food, and blessed it: “Thank you, O Lord, for giving us food we can not only eat but share.” And because of this man's witness, because the fellow prisoners knew all this man had already done for them, they stopped fighting and stealing from each other.

I realize I take things for granted. I have tried to overcome this by writing daily a short and direct prayer of thanksgiving to God for three things: whatever three things I want to thank Him for. I try to make it specific, concrete, and not too wordy. This has helped. I also try to thank God after I have a meal with the traditional prayer: “We give you thanks, Almighty God, for these and all your benefits, which come to us through Christ Our Lord. Amen. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.”

Why do we take things for granted? Maybe it is because none of us find ourselves starving like the POW's, and only a handful of us at most have ever seen leprosy with our own eyes. I think the real reason, though, is that we hide our leprosy because we are ashamed of it. We ignore our wounds and hope they go away.  We forget how we have been healed by God because our wounded pride has blocked it from our memory.  We often aren't fully honest with ourselves until there is no other alternative.  Instead of being humble, we need to be humiliated.

As November approaches, we run into the one time a year that we are supposed to give thanks with a national holiday. Not only should we be doing this daily, but even on the holiday, we might not do so good a job at being thankful. For many of us, we honor God for the past year's blessings by stuffing ourselves with food and taking a nap, and hopefully not getting into a fight with family and friends.

Worship is the proper sign of thanksgiving. The word Eucharist means “Thanksgiving.”
Catechism par. 2637 Thanksgiving characterizes the prayer of the Church which, in celebrating the Eucharist, reveals and becomes more fully what she is. Indeed, in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for his glory. The thanksgiving of the members of the Body participates in that of their Head.
 What we do here is thank God. We come hear singing his praises for the ways He has healed us.  And also, in this Eucharist, we cry out, with humility, for Jesus to heal us once again: from the wounds we hide, from the wounds we have forgotten.  And we hear Him in our souls: "Go in peace, your faith has saved you."

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