Homily for Thanksgiving Day
Today, we celebrate a beautiful national holiday, Thanksgiving day! In this way, the US is unique, in that, as far I as I know, we were the first country to set aside a holiday to give thanks to God. It is a day about gratitude itself.
As Christians, we should give thanks, because thanksgiving is at the heart of salvation. In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one returns to give thanks. Jesus responds to that leper by saying, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Today, I would like to take a closer look at that process of salvation.
The first part of our salvation is God’s action, his initiative. We call this “grace”. The Old Testament describes God’s initiative on a very natural level. We are invited to ‘bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth” (Sirach 50, 22). That precious gift, of course, is the one that makes all gifts possible, the gift of life. God created the universe and our planet. The entire history of the universe and human life centers on the formation of a child in his mother’s womb.
God’s initiative in the birth of a child.
We see God’s initiative not only in the birth of a child, but also in rebirth. That is where it is! The Gospel shows that beautiful process of rebirth. We are born into a world of sin, a world disfigured by sin. The sin of human beings and our own personal sin. Sin is like leprosy-a disease that begins at the extremities, but eventually attacks the vital organs. Jesus has the cure for this disease, and wants to cure us-to give us a new birth in him.
God is calling us to a new birth-that is the first and most important part of our salvation. There is still a second part, our personal response. WE have to respond with gratitude.
Now, some might say, “If some had to live with a terrible disease and then were cured, why wouldn’t that person be grateful?” I do not know, but remember that in today’s gospel, 90 % of those healed by Jesus were not grateful. Only one came back to express gratitude. Gratitude may seem nice and easy, but it is not always easy. It requires humbly going out of our way, and establishing a relationship with the giver.
Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving, and we remember the connection between gratitude and salvation. Gratitude is the joyful acceptance of God’s gift of birth and rebirth in Christ. May God be able to say to us, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”