I lift Up My Hands in Thanksgiving to You O Lord!
Readings: (1st: I King 5, 14-17; Ps: 97, 1-4. 6-9; 2nd: 2Tim 2, 8-13; Gos: Lk 17, 11-19)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: +23408063767512, +23408024942843
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: His love endures forever… Let those who fear the Lord say, His love endures forever” (Ps. 118, 1-2). When was the last time you sincerely thanked God in appreciation of at least, the health and life he has given to you? As simple as this might seem yet, it is too heavy on our lips and hearts to say, “I thank you Lord Jesus”. The simple reason most times is that, we take lots of things for granted including the gift of life and indeed other mercies that God granted us through Jesus Christ. This Sunday therefore, just a couple weeks to draw the curtains of the Church’s (Year C) Liturgical Calendar and 2013, we are encouraged by the first reading and the gospel to give thanks to God; and to offer Him sacrifice for having made known to us his salvation, and for having cleansed us from our sins. During my office hours, I noticed that about seventy to eighty percent of those who visit start their discussions with either complaints or recounting of their woes, failures and disappointments. So, I usually ask people like this to be still and reflect for just a moment and then check if there is any reason for which they could thank God in their lives. Surprisingly, most of them end up recounting more reasons than they could have ever imagined for which they should thank God. Thus, they become more lively and positive before we begin to discuss their problems.
In today’s first reading, the story of Naaman the leper and Elisha is a typical example of how we should thank and express our profound gratitude to God. While Naaman did what simple courtesy demands of every one of us, to show appreciation and thank those who have been good to us, Elisha teaches us that in as much as he appreciates Naaman’s good gesture and effort, that the most important issue in thanking God is not how much of material possession we bring to Him. Also, this reading teaches us that God does not come to our help just because of how much material goods we are able to offer him in return, after all He says: “All the silver and gold in the whole world are mine” (Haggai 2, 8-9). This reading simply teaches us that, it is good to thank God, irrespective of what we can afford. It however, in no way condemns material offerings for the good of the Church in appreciation of what God has done for one. This is important because the Church is the visible sign of God on earth and so whatever we bring in thanksgiving to the Church is offered to God, and He will surely be happy for our generous donations.
Once a king was passing and noticed a poor beggar. He took him to his palace and assisted him very well. On his way home, the poor beggar was disturbed over how to return and thank the king for all he has done for him. So, he decided to wrap a stone-like but, beautiful and glittering object which he picked up somewhere around the palace sometime ago in order to offer it to the king as a token of his appreciation. Although the beggar did not know what this object was or its worth monetarily, yet he cherished it so much and would not allow any one take it away from him. However, he pondered over one problem. And that was whether the king would accept his gift or not. Eventually, he summoned the courage to go ahead with his plans to offer it to the king in thanksgiving for what he has done for him. When he presented his humble gift, the king accepted it. The beggar was surprised to see that after unwrapping the gift, the king jumped up from his stool and started screaming: “I have found it! This is it!! Here is it!!!” It was the king’s cherished ball of pure diamond that got missing some months ago. The king was so delighted and happy with the poor beggar that he gave him a job in the palace and placed him in charge of his valuable items. Like this poor man we must make the move to thank God, first and foremost with our hearts full of praises to him and then, with anything that we can afford. In today’s gospel, Jesus buttressed the importance of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for favours received from him. In this reading one would have noticed that, what pleased Jesus or what caught his admiration about the Samaritan who came back to thank Him was not whether he brought something or not, but simply, the fact that he: “turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” My dear, when was the last time you said sincerely from your heart “Thank You Jesus!” To thank God is a firm expression of faith in the God who saves us.
Many of us hardly consider it necessary to show gratitude to God for what he has done for us. Even using the gift he has lavished on us to thank him at times could become a burden to us, and in some cases we even consider it a waste of exercise especially when we become entrapped by “negative rationalizations.” Some who make donations do so as though it were a gamble they have played with God. In order words, God must do something for me in return I because I have given to Him or, I give to God because he gives to me! This is the idea and mentality behind the slogan: “Offering time, blessing time!” instead of: “Prayer time blessing time!” The people of God must not be psyched to give. If they are converted they will learn the act of giving thanks to God, if they are healed and become sound spiritually, they will learn to give thanks to God freely.” Thanking God is important. However, it must not be seen as a burden or as “paying God back for what he has done for us.” The truth is that we cannot pay him pack! The willingness to thank God must flow from our hearts and from a good and pure conscience, rather than from coercion, psyching, or out of fear of what will happen if one did not do it.
Finally, in light of this, we must approach the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist or Mass everyday because it is a sacrament of thanksgiving to God. Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistien, and means “thanksgiving or gratitude.” It is one whole sacrifice through which the Church gives thanks to God when she gathers her children as on big and united family of God. Therefore, when we gather, we are there to say as in the prayer after meal: “We give you thanks Almighty God for these and all your benefits (both spiritual and material) to us ….” This is the reason the Psalmist asked: “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? And in answer to this question he posed he says: “I will raise the cup of salvation and call on God’s name” (Ps 116, 12-19). It is not all about material things or gifts to God alone, but most importantly, thanksgiving and gratitude that gushes forth from our innermost heart.
Peace be with you all!