AD SENSE

28th Sunday C - Ten Lepers


From Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading is from a collection of stories about the prophet Elisha. In today’s reading Naaman, a army general of Syria, who had a skin disease, hears of Elisha’s fame and comes to Israel to be cured by him. Naaman had high expectations of Elisha but he was disappointed. Elisha did not even come out to welcome him and made, what appeared to Naaman to be a silly recommendation, – to bathe in the Jordan seven times. Initially Namaan hesitated but conforming to the pleas of his servants, performed the commanded ritual and was made clean. Today’s reading takes up the story. After his cure Naaman immediately did two things. He acknowledges that the God of Israel is the only God. Secondly, he is full of gratitude and wants to give Elisha a fitting reward, which Elisha refuses. When Elisha declines Naaman asked for some Israelite earth to carry home, on which holy ground he could stand before an altar for continual praise of Israel’s God.

The story of Naaman reminds us that often, though we want God to help us, we have our expectations of how he should work in our lives. We have our elaborate plans for God and often what he asks of us appears to be silly, stupid or too simple and irrelevant. Only when we do what he asks us, do we experience healing and a renewal in faith. Secondly, when our problems are sorted do we find time to acknowledge and thank the Lord? Is thanksgiving the theme song of our life? If we reflect on the happenings of each day we will always find something to thank the Lord. It is often said that we don’t need so much to be told as to be reminded.It is amazing what we can see if we only look.

I want to say thank you to you for….
In 1976 Louise Fletcher was awarded an Oscar for best actress for her role as Nurse Ratched in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She had given up acting for eleven years to raise her children before she won that role after five big-name actresses had turned it down. In accepting her Academy Award Louise Fletcher did a very dramatic thing. With her voice breaking with emotion she faced a national audience and said: “For my mother and Father. I want to say thank you to you for teaching me to have a dream. You are seeing my dream come true.” Louise Fletcher delivered the message in sign language at the same time, because both her parents were deaf mutes and were watching from their home in Alabama. This touching story about gratitude is reflected in today’s readings from Scripture.
- Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
The second reading from the second letter to Timothy is held by scripture scholars to be written by a person who knew Paul, who wrote it in his name shortly after Paul’s death as a farewell testament. The key aim was to encourage the early Christians to be faithful and to hold on to their faith and not to recant under persecution. “If we hold firm then we shall reign with Christ.” The letter also affirms the belief in the resurrection of Christ which is the basis of our own resurrection. “If we have died with him, then we shall live with him. If we hold firm then we shall reign with him.”

I did not ask for success. I asked for wonder and you gave it to me..
Some years before his death in 1972, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel suffered a devastating heart attack from which he never quite recovered. A close friend who visited him, found him very weak; but he could whisper. “When I gained consciousness, my first feeling was not of despair or anger. I felt only gratitude to God for my life, for every moment I lived. I was ready to depart. “Take me, O Lord”. I thought. I have seen so many miracles in my lifetime. That is what I meant when I wrote: “I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder and you gave it to me”.
- Walter Burghardt
In today’s Gospel we are told of ten lepers who came to Jesus to be healed. Their coming to Jesus showed that they had faith in him. Jesus commands them to go and show themselves to a priest, who had the authority to declare them clean or unclean. At any rate, Jesus’ command that the ten show themselves to the priests, at this early stage, appeared at least as silly as Naaman’s being told to bathe seven times in the muddy Jordan river. Nevertheless, they took Jesus at his word and all ten were cured. Probably the nine lepers were appreciative of what Jesus had done; we don’t know why they never bothered to show their gratitude. On finding themselves cured nine disappeared and perhaps went home to break the good news. Only one came back to Jesus to thank him. We can only look at ourselves and ask why we are often reluctant to say thank you. Sometimes it is because we resent the fact that we need help in the first place; sometimes we are suspicious of good Samaritans and wonder about their motives. Whatever the reason for our ingratitude we know it diminishes us and those who help us. “Were not ten made clean? Where are the other nine? Has no one come to give praise to God but this foreigner?” Why is saying thank you such a problem? Luke tells us that this man was a Samaritan, a despised foreigner, an outcast, a non-religious person who returns to thank Jesus. He throws himself at the feet of Jesus, acknowledging that he is nothing, that he is not worthy of the gift he has received. “The Samaritan’s healing like Naaman’s was more than skin deep. There are other similarities between the Samaritan and Naaman – both were foreigners away from their home base; both were asked to do something that went against their grain; both knew enough to be full of praise and gratitude for their cure; and for both the cure involved an expansion of their understanding.” Harold Buetow

Where’s his hat?
Winston Churchill loved to tell the story of the little boy who fell off a pier into deep ocean water. An older soldier, heedless of the great danger to himself, dove into the stormy water, struggled with the boy, and finally exhausted, brought him to safety. Two days later the boy’s mother came with him to the same pier seeking the sailor who rescued her son. Finding him she asked, “You dove into the ocean to bring my boy out?” “I did,” he replied. The mother quickly demanded, “Then where’s his hat?”
- Gerard Fuller in ‘Stories for all seasons’
Eucharist means ‘thanks’. When we gather each Sunday for the Eucharist, we come to the Eucharist God in the midst of the assembly. We do what Naaman the Syrian and the Samaritan leper did: we give praise to God and give thanks for his chosen ones who have graced us with their help. Let our thanks find expression in the Eucharist and in our day lives. We could surprise someone this week with a long overdue visit, a note an e-mail or just a word which says thank you!
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Illustrations:

1. The Seeds of Discouragement: 

An old legend tells how a man once stumbled upon a great red barn after wandering for days in a forest in the dark. He was seeking refuge from the howling winds of a storm. He entered the barn and his eyes grew accustomed to the dark. To his astonishment, he discovered that this was the barn where the devil kept his storehouse of seeds. They were the seeds that were sown in the hearts of humans. The man became curious and lit a match. He began exploring the piles of bins of seeds round him. He couldn't help but notice that the greatest majority of them said, "Seeds of Discouragement." 

About that time one of the devil's helpers arrived to pick up a load of seeds. The man asked him, "Why the abundance of discouragement seeds?" The helper laughed and replied, "Because they are so effective and they take root so quickly." "Do they grow everywhere?" the man asked. At that moment the devil's helper became very sullen. He glared at the man and in disgust he said, "No. They never seem to grow in the heart of a grateful person."

Keith Wagner, But Are We Grateful?
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2. Greg Anderson,
in Living Life on Purpose, tells a story about a man whose wife had left him. He was completely depressed. He had lost faith in himself, in other people, in God--he found no joy in living. One rainy morning this man went to a small neighborhood restaurant for breakfast. Although several people were at the diner, no one was speaking to anyone else. Our miserable friend hunched over the counter, stirring his coffee with a spoon. 

In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by almost shouting, "Momma, why don't we say our prayers here?" The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, "Sure, honey, we pray here. Will you say the prayer for us?" And she turned and looked at the rest of the people in the restaurant and said, "Bow your heads." Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down. The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, and said, "God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food. Amen.
That prayer changed the entire atmosphere. People began to talk with one another. The waitress said, "We should do that every morning." 

"All of a sudden," said our friend, "my whole frame of mind started to improve. From that little girl's example, I started to thank God for all that I did have and stop majoring in all that I didn't have. I started to be grateful."

We all understand and appreciate the importance of gratitude. How it can radically change relationships. In fact, one of the first things we were taught and that we teach our children is to express their gratitude. Someone gives them some candy and we say: "Now what do you say?" And the child learns from an early age the answer "Thank you." And certainly we all know as adults that we appreciate being thanked. Yet, when it comes to giving thanks to our heavenly father, we so often miss the mark.

And when it comes to giving our thanks to God, I don't suppose there is any story in the Bible that is so endearing to us, so timelessly appropriate, as the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. We have all heard the story many times, but like so many Bible stories, we never tire of it...

An old legend tells how a man once stumbled upon a great red barn after wandering for days in a forest in the dark. He was seeking refuge from the howling winds of a storm. He entered the barn and his eyes grew accustomed to the dark. To his astonishment, he discovered that this was the barn where the devil kept his storehouse of seeds. They were the seeds that were sown in the hearts of humans. The man became curious and lit a match. He began exploring the piles of bins of seeds round him. He couldn't help but notice that the greatest majority of them said, "Seeds of Discouragement." 

About that time one of the devil's helpers arrived to pick up a load of seeds. The man asked him, "Why the abundance of discouragement seeds?" The helper laughed and replied, "Because they are so effective and they take root so quickly." "Do they grow everywhere?" the man asked. At that moment the devil's helper became very sullen. He glared at the man and in disgust he said, "No. They never seem to grow in the heart of a grateful person."

Keith Wagner, But Are We Grateful?
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Nine Reasons They Did Not Return 
Why did only one man cleansed from leprosy return to thank Jesus? Someone has made a list of nine suggested reasons why the nine did not return:

One waited to see if the cure was real.
One waited to see if it would last.
One said he would see Jesus later.
One decided that he had never had leprosy in the first place.
One said he would have gotten well anyway.
One gave the glory to the priests.
One said, "O, well, Jesus didn't really do anything."
One said, "Any rabbi could have done it."
One said, "I was already much improved."

That's not surprising, is it? I doubt that more than ten percent of us are ever truly grateful to God. In fact, it often seems that the more we have, the less gratitude we feel. 

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com

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Now Thank We All Our God 
You can even be thankful during the most difficult of circumstances in life. It's true! We see an especially inspiring example of a brave and thankful heart in the story behind one of the church's most popular hymns, "Now Thank We All Our God." This particularly hymn was written during the Thirty Years War in Germany, in the early 1600s. Its author was Martin Rinkart, a Lutheran pastor in the town of Eilenburg in Saxony. 

Now, Eilenburg was a walled city, so it became a haven for refugees seeking safety from the fighting. But soon, the city became too crowded and food was in short supply. Then, a famine hit and a terrible plague and Eilenburg became a giant morgue.

In one year alone, Pastor Rinkart conducted funerals for 4,500 people, including his own wife. The war dragged on; the suffering continued. Yet through it all, he never lost courage or faith and even during the darkest days of Eilenburg's agony, he was able to write this hymn: 

Now thank we all our God,
with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom the world rejoices
...[So] keep us in His grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills,
in this world and the next.

Even when he was waist deep in destruction, Pastor Rinkart was able to lift his sights to a higher plane. He kept his mind on God's love when the world was filled with hate. He kept his mind on God's promises of heaven when the earth was a living hell. Can we not do the same - we whose lives are almost trouble-free, compared with the man who wrote that hymn? 

Whom can you say "thank you" to? 

Erskine White, Together in Christ, CSS Publishing Company
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Overwhelmed by the Gift 
When did you first notice that some people are more thankful than others are? When I was a young father, I remember taking my little children out on Halloween to go "trick-or-treating." They were very young, perhaps three and five, and were appropriately costumed in garb which thrilled us as parents. As they toddled to the front doors, I stood back and watched. I noticed that after they bravely mustered their "trick or treat," and took the candy, they didn't say "thank you." It then became my mission to explain that after they received the candy, they should always say "thank you." 

After many attempts to encourage a grateful behavior pattern, in some frustration I came to understand that they were far more overwhelmed with the idea that when a door opens in the darkness two people with candy appear, than they were overwhelmed with the idea that they were being graced with an unwarranted gift. It dawned on me that gratitude needs a touchstone in the heart, a place or moment when someone recognizes that this didn't have to happen: What I am receiving is pure gift! I neither earned nor deserved this! Such an insight is too profound for little children on Halloween night-and perhaps for many of us on any night. 

David Zersen, What Is Grace Calling You to Be?

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Humor: Does Everyone Do That? 
The story is told of a farmer who went into town for a little breakfast. As his meal was set before him, he bowed his head and offered a silent prayer. The man at the next table derided him, "Hey, does everybody do that where you come from?" "No," said the farmer. "The pigs don't." 

Frank Lyman, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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The Old Farmer's Feelings 
Perhaps you have heard the story of the old farmer who, with his wife, was celebrating fifty years of married life. Life on a farm can be tough; commitment is required. And you have to be frugal. 

Their children gave them a party during which lots of friends congratulated the honored couple. They looked at old pictures, brought out old phonograph records. The fifty-year couple even danced a bit to the old, familiar music. When the party was over and all had gone home the happy couple found themselves alone. It was a tender moment. The old farmer, who was careful with his money and even more frugal with his words, felt moved to speak.

"You know, Ma, over these fifty years, sometimes I've loved you so much that I could hardly keep from telling you." She reached for a hankie, dabbed her eyes and said: "Thank ya', Pa." 

Why are we so reluctant to let others know how we feel? Why are we so stingy and so slow to speak words that others long to hear, so private in saying things that cry out to be said?al

To be sure, God's name is holy itself ...To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayers ...To be sure, the good and gracious will of God is done without our prayer ...To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer...
To be sure, to be sure, to be sure! God's gifts come to us despite our unfaithfulness and often without our prayers. Paul quotes an ancient Christian hymn in his second letter to Timothy: "If we are faithless, he remains faithful - for he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13)." Our faithlessness and ingratitude cannot make of God something that he is not. To be sure!
All of which brings us to the heart of today's gospel. Rudolph Bultmann is quite correct when he notes that the emphasis of Luke's story is not the miracle of 10 lepers cleansed, but rather the contrast of gratitude and ingratitude depicted on the same dramatic canvas. 
Luke draws the contrast all the more boldly when he notes that the man returning to give thanks was a Samaritan, a "foreigner." Always the master storyteller among the four evangelists, Luke, having already given us the story of the "Good Samaritan," now gives us the story of the "Thankful Samaritan." 
Theodore F. Schneider, United the King Comes, CSS Publishing Company
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The First Billionaire 
The very first person to reach the status of billionaire was a man who knew how to set goals and follow through. At the age of 23, he had become a millionaire, by the age of 50 a billionaire. Every decision, attitude, and relationship was tailored to create his personal power and wealth. But three years later at the age of 53 he became ill.
His entire body became racked with pain and he lost all the hair on his head. In complete agony, the world's only billionaire could buy anything he wanted, but he could only digest milk and crackers. An associate wrote, "He could not sleep, would not smile and nothing in life meant anything to him." 
His personal, highly skilled physicians predicted he would die within a year.
That year passed agonizingly slow. As he approached death he awoke one morning with the vague remembrances of a dream. He could barely recall the dream but knew it had something to do with not being able to take any of his successes with him into the next world. The man who could control the

Fro business world suddenly realized he was not in control of his own life. He was left with a choice...
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From Fr Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1:  "Then where’s his hat?" Winston Churchill loved to tell the story of the little boy who fell off a pier into deep ocean water. An older sailor, heedless of the great danger to himself, dove into the stormy water, struggled with the boy, and finally, exhausted, brought him to safety. Two days later the boy’s mother came with him to the same pier, seeking the sailor who rescued her son. Finding him, she asked, "You dove into the ocean to bring my boy out?" "I did," he replied. The mother quickly demanded, "Then where’s his hat?" In today’s gospel Jesus tells the story of nine ungrateful lepers. 

2: "I'm just so glad and thankful I can hear and see." Perhaps the most grateful person I've ever heard of was an old woman in an extended care hospital. She had some kind of wasting disease, her different powers fading away over the march of months. A student of mine happened to meet her on a coincidental visit. The student kept going back, drawn by the strange force of the woman's joy. Though she could no longer move her arms and legs, she would say, "I'm just so happy and grateful to God that I can move my neck." When she could no longer move her neck, she would say, "I'm just so glad and thankful I can hear and see." When the young student finally asked the old woman what would happen if she lost her sense of sound and sight, the gentle lady said, "I'll just be so grateful that you come to visit." (Rev. John Kavanaugh S. J.) 

 3: "Accept my sincere acknowledgments." James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, is known as the Father of the American Constitution.  Madison was known for his spotless character. In his old age, the venerable ex-President suffered from many diseases, took a variety of medicines and managed to live a long life.  An old friend from the adjoining county of Albemarle sent him a box of vegetable pills and begged to be informed whether they helped him.  In due time Madison replied as follows: "My dear friend, I thank you very much for the box of pills.  I have taken them all, and while I cannot say that I am better since taking them, it is quite possible that I might have been worse if I had not taken them, and so I beg you to accept my sincere acknowledgments."

4 Expressing our gratitude: In 1976 Louise Fletcher was awarded an Oscar for best actress for her role as Nurse Ratched in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She had given up acting for eleven years to raise her children before she won that role after five big-name actresses had turned it down. In accepting her Academy Award, Louise Fletcher did a very dramatic thing. With her voice breaking with emotion she faced a national television audience and said: “For my mother and my father, I want to say thank you for teaching me to have a dream. You are seeing my dream come true.” Louise Fletcher delivered the message in sign language at the same time, because both of her parents were deaf mutes and were watching from their home in Alabama. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds).
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1: “Then where’s his hat?” Winston Churchill loved to tell the story of the little boy who fell off a pier into deep ocean water. An older sailor, heedless of the great danger to himself, dove into the stormy water, struggled with the boy, and finally, exhausted, brought him to safety. Two days later the boy’s mother came with him to the same pier, seeking the sailor who rescued her son. Finding him, she asked, “You dove into the ocean to bring my boy out?” “I did,” he replied. The mother angrily demanded, “Then where’s his hat?” In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the story of nine ungrateful lepers.

2: “I’m just so glad and thankful I can hear and see.” Perhaps the most grateful person I’ve ever heard of was an old woman in an extended care hospital. She had some kind of wasting disease, her different powers fading away over the march of months. A student of mine happened to meet her on a coincidental visit. The student kept going back, drawn by the strange force of the woman’s joy. Though she could no longer move her arms and legs, she would say, “I’m just so happy and grateful to God that I can move my neck.” When she could no longer move her neck, she would say, “I’m just so glad and thankful I can hear and see.” When the young student finally asked the old woman what would happen if she lost her senses of hearing and sight, the gentle lady said, “I’ll just be so grateful that you come to visit.” (Rev. John Kavanaugh S. J.)

3: Two lists: Perhaps Daniel Defoe gave us some good advice through his fictitious character Robinson Crusoe. The first thing that Crusoe did when he found himself on a deserted island was to make out a list. On one side of the list he wrote down all his problems. On the other side of the list he wrote down all of his blessings. On one side he wrote: I do not have any clothes. On the other side he wrote: But it’s warm and I don’t really need any. On one side he wrote: All of the provisions were lost. On the other side he wrote: But there’s plenty of fresh fruit and water on the island. And on down the list he went. In this fashion he discovered that for every negative aspect about his situation, there was a positive aspect, something to be thankful for. It is easy to find ourselves on an island of despair. Perhaps it is time that we sit down and take an inventory of our blessings.”

4:  Expressing our gratitude: In 1976 Louise Fletcher was awarded an Oscar for best actress for her role as Nurse Ratched in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She had given up acting for eleven years to raise her children before she won that role after five big-name actresses had turned it down. In accepting her Academy Award, Louise Fletcher did a very dramatic thing. With her voice breaking with emotion she faced a national television audience and said: “For my mother and my father, I want to say thank you for teaching me to have a dream. You are seeing my dream come true.” (https://youtu.be/pGl5U7nNlkY) Louise Fletcher delivered the message in sign language at the same time, because both of her parents were deaf mutes and were watching from their home in Alabama. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds).

5) “The pigs don’t.” The story is told of a farmer who went into town for a little breakfast. As his meal was set before him, he bowed his head and offered a silent prayer. The man at the next table derided him, “Hey, does everybody do that where you come from?” “No,” said the farmer. “The pigs don’t.”

6) A high five and thanks.  Sally was thirty years old and had been married for seven years.  She lived in Atlanta and was very active in the parish, but she and her husband Jim had been unsuccessful in starting a family.  One day she visited her pastor and informed him that her engineer husband had taken a very good job with a reputable firm in Chicago.  Hence, they would be moving from Atlanta to Chicago.  Her pastor told her that he was going on a pilgrimage to Israel and assured her that he would light a candle at the birthplace of Jesus at Bethlehem for their special intention of being blessed with children.  Ten years later their former pastor, while on a tour of Chicago, was invited by Sally to visit her family.  When the pastor called on Sally he found to his great joy and astonishment that she was blessed with five children.  “Congratulations Sally, I am glad to learn that my candle at Bethlehem really worked,” he said.  After a while he enquired, “Where is your husband?””He’s gone to Bethlehem,” Sally replied, “to thank Jesus and to blow out that darn candle!”

7) “I can chew my food”: It was Thanksgiving season in the nursing home. The small resident population had been gathered around their humble Thanksgiving table, and the director asked each in turn to express one thing for which he or she was thankful. “Thanks” were expressed for a home in which to stay, families, etc. One little old lady, when her turn came, said, “I thank the Lord for two perfectly good teeth left in my mouth, one in my upper jaw and one in my lower jaw. They match so well that I can chew my food.”

8) Thanks to the guide: A man was lost in the woods. Later, in describing the experience, he told how frightened he was and how he had even finally knelt and prayed. Someone asked, “Did God answer your prayer?” “Oh, no,” the man replied. “Before God had a chance, a guide came along and showed me the way out.”

9) None died: Two old friends met each other on the street one day. One looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend? “The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you: three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.” “That’s a lot of money.” But you see, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars, free and clear.” “Sounds to me that you’ve been very blessed.”
“You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million from her.” Now the man’s friend was really confused. “Then, why do you look so glum?” “This week . . . no relative died!”

22 Additional anecdotes:

1) Empty bag of gratitude: There is an interesting story about two Angels who were sent to the Earth. The cries and petitions of the people reach the doorsteps of Heaven constantly. So once God decided that he should send the angels to the Earth to collect them directly from the people. Thus, two angels were sent to the Earth with carry bags. One was commissioned to collect all the petitions, and the other was asked to collect gratitude. The angel that was collecting the petitions found the bag full in minutes and flew up to heaven many times. But the angel that was collecting gratitude could not even fill a bag. (Fr. Bobby Jose)

2) Accept my sincere acknowledgments.” James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, is known as the Father of the American Constitution.  Madison was known for his spotless character. In his old age, the venerable ex-President suffered from many diseases, took a variety of medicines and managed to live a long life.  An old friend from the adjoining county of Albemarle sent him a box of vegetable pills and begged to be informed whether they helped him.  In due time Madison replied as follows: “My dear friend, I thank you very much for the box of pills.  I have taken them all, and while I cannot say that I am better since taking them, it is quite possible that I might have been worse if I had not taken them, and so I beg you to accept my sincere acknowledgments.”

3) “Not one of them ever thanked me.” From off the coast of Evanston Illinois there comes the story of a shipwreck. The students of Northwestern University came to the rescue. One student, Edward Spenser, personally saved the lives of 17 persons that day. Years later a reporter was writing a follow-up story on the event, and went to interview the now elderly Spenser. When asked what was the one thing that stood out about the incident in his mind; Spenser replied: “I remember that of the seventeen people I saved that day, not one of them ever thanked me.”

4) “I can’t tell you how much your letter meant to me.” In the book A Window on the Mountain, Winston Pierce tells of his high school class reunion. A group of the old classmates were reminiscing about things and persons they were grateful for. One man mentioned that he was particularly thankful for Mrs. Wendt, for she, more than anyone, had introduced him to Tennyson and the beauty of poetry. Acting on a suggestion, the man wrote a letter of appreciation to Mrs. Wendt and addressed it to the high school. The note was forwarded and eventually found the old teacher. About a month later the man received a response. It was written in a feeble longhand and read as follows: “My dear Willie, I can’t tell you how much your letter meant to me. I am now in my nineties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely, and like the last leaf of fall lingering behind. You will be interested to know that I taught school for forty years and yours is the first letter of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning and it cheered me as nothing has for years. Willie, you have made my day.” Let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is the will of God in Christ concerning you” (Philemon 4: 4).

5) “That’s all the more reason we ought to give in thanks.” In a little Church, there were the father and mother of a young man killed in a military battle. One day, they came to the pastor and told him they wanted to give a monetary gift as a memorial to their son who died in battle. The pastor said, “That’s a wonderful gesture on your part.” He asked if it was okay to tell the congregation, and they said that it was. The next Sunday he told the congregation of the gift given in memory of the dead son. On the way home from Church, another couple was driving down the highway when the father said to his wife, “Why don’t we give a gift because of our son?” And his wife said, “But our son didn’t die in any conflict! Our son is still alive!” Her husband replied, “That’s exactly my point! That’s all the more reason we ought to give in thanks to God.” We too often build fences around forgiveness, faith, duty, and gratitude. In passages like this one, Jesus encourages us to remove those fences in order to achieve the possibilities of the Christian life.

6) “I’m thankful I’m going to see my grandmother.” On the radio, a reporter was conducting one of those man-in-the-street interviews. Out among the pedestrians he was asking, “What are you thankful for?” Some were grateful for their health. Some gave thanks because they had good jobs to provide for their families. One lady whispered in broken English, “Much happy to live in America.” One man was even thankful because the doctor said he could eat all the turkey he wanted. But the most enchanting remark of all was that of a wee little girl who said, “I’m thankful I’m going to see my grandmother so I can tell her how much I love her.” Now that is really thanksgiving. It is going beyond mere “thanksgetting” and thanksgiving. It is taking your eyes off yourself and focusing on another.

7) “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food.” Greg Anderson, in Living Life on Purpose, tells a story about a man whose wife had left him. He was completely depressed. He had lost faith in himself, in other people, in God–he found no joy in living. One rainy morning this man went to a small neighborhood restaurant for breakfast. Although several people were at the diner, no one was speaking to anyone else. Our miserable friend hunched over the counter, stirring his coffee with a spoon. In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by almost shouting, “Momma, why don’t we say our prayers here?” The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, “Sure, honey, we can pray here. Will you say the prayer for us?” And she turned and looked at the rest of the people in the restaurant and said, “Bow your heads.” Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down. The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, and said, “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food. Amen.” That prayer changed the entire atmosphere. People began to talk with one another. The waitress said, “We should do that every morning.” “All of a sudden,” said our friend, “my whole frame of mind started to improve. From that little girl’s example, I started to thank God for all that I did have and stopped majoring in all that I didn’t have. I started to be grateful.”

8) Be grateful for Christian Faith: There is a story about a Monastery in Portugal. The monastery is perched high on a 300 foot cliff. The only way the monastery can be reached is by a terrifying ride in a swaying basket, attached to a single rope pulled by several strong monks. One day an American tourist was about to ride up in the basket. However, he became very nervous when he noticed that the rope was quite old and quite frayed. Timidly, he asked: “How often do you change the rope?” One of the monks replied: “Whenever it breaks!!!” Many people today treat Faith like that. They never turn to Faith until something breaks. But, thank God, there are others who realize that the Christian Faith is a life-style that works in practical daily living. It is not just some last resort. It is the way to live. It is the way to relate to other people. It is the way to serve and honor God.

9) Thanks, But No Thanks! Three men were fishing on a lake one day, when Jesus walked across the water and joined them in the boat.  When the three astonished men had settled down enough to speak, the first man asked humbly, “Jesus, I’ve suffered from back pain ever since I lifted a very heavy long-range gun in the Viet Nam war.  Could you help me?”  “Of course, My son,” Jesus said.  When Jesus touched the man’s back, the man felt relief for the first time in years. The second man, who wore very thick glasses and had a hard time reading and driving, asked if Jesus could do anything about his eyesight.  Jesus smiled, removed the man’s glasses and tossed them in the lake.  When the glasses hit the water, the man’s eyesight cleared up and he could see everything distinctly.  Then Jesus turned to the third man.  “What can I do for you?” he asked.  At this, the man put up his hands defensively and cried: “Don’t touch me!  I’m on long-term disability.”

10) Song of Norway. There was a beautiful motion picture a few years ago entitled, Song of Norway. It was about Edvard Grieg’s struggle to succeed as a composer. Grieg had a friend who assisted him during the time of struggle. Indeed, Grieg’s friend poured his life into making this brilliant young composer a success. Later this friend lay dying and he sent word to Edvard, “Come see me.” But Edvard was now a star. There were concerts and receptions and famous people to meet and Edvard never made it back to his friend’s bedside. Edvard Grieg may have been a great composer, but as a man, his life was surely lacking.

11) Empty thank-you basket: There is an ancient legend about two angels who flew to earth to gather people’s prayers. Wherever people bowed in prayer by their bedside at night, in a chapel, or on the side of a mountain the angels stopped and gathered the prayers into their baskets. Before long the basket carried by one of the angels grew heavy with the weight of what he had collected, but that of the other remained almost empty. Into the first were put prayers of petition. “Please give me this….Please I want that.” Into the other went the “Thank you” prayers. “Your basket seems very light,” said one angel to the other. “Yes,” replied the one who carried the ‘Thank-you’ prayers. “People are usually ready enough to pray for what they want, but very few remember to thank God when He grants their requests.”

12) “Now Thank We All Our God.” You can even be thankful during the most difficult of circumstances in life. It’s true! Imagine a man who conducted forty to fifty funerals a day, burying nearly 4500 people in one year. Among those dying would be his wife. Towards the end, the deaths would be so frequent that the bodies would just be placed in trenches, without burial rites. Imagine also that this brave person would be so thankful for these experiences that he’d write one of the Church’s most popular hymns, “Now Thank We All Our God,” sung by Christians of all denominations. This particular hymn was written in Germany in the early 1600s during the Thirty Years’ War. Its author was Martin Rinkart, a Lutheran pastor in the town of Eilenburg in Saxony. He lived in a walled city, the walls being the reason it was a place of hiding for thousands of refugees. The over-crowding brought on the epidemic of plague and famine. All other officials and pastors fled, leaving Rinkart alone to care for the dying. The war dragged on; the suffering continued. Yet through it all, he never lost courage or Faith, and even during the darkest days of Eilenburg’s agony, he was able to write this hymn because he kept his mind on God’s love when the world was filled with hate. He kept his mind on God’s promises of Heaven when the earth was a living Hell: Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hath done, In whom the world rejoices …[So] keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed, and free us from all ills, in this world and the next. [Christopher Idle, Stories of Our Favorite Hymns, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1980), p. 19.)]
13) “Thank-you doctor!”: Some years ago I visited a doctor friend of mine. He was almost crying with joy. He showed me an envelope which contained an amount of money and a letter which said, “Doctor, when I was sick you helped me and never asked for anything because you knew that I could not pay. I have just landed a fairly good job. I am sending you something from my first pay packet just to say, ‘thank you’.” My doctor friend commented, “You do not often meet that kind of gratitude!” (Father Gerry Pierse)

14) Schindler’s List: Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist, who, during World War II, single-handedly and tenaciously saved thousands of Polish Jews from the horrors and brutalities of incarceration in the diabolical concentration camps. As the war ended, the defeated Germans pulled out of Poland and the people eagerly awaited the arrival of the Russians. But just before the Russians arrived, Oskar Schindler, fearing for his safety, decided to flee westwards as well. When word got around that Oskar Schindler was planning to leave, the people he saved rallied together and began to discuss ways and means to express their heartfelt gratitude. But they had little to offer him. Suddenly, one man opened his mouth and pointed to the gold bridge-work on his teeth. “Take this please, and give it to Oskar.” That was indeed a very noble gesture, but the people would not hear of it. “Please,” begged the man, “please take it away. Were it not for Oskar, the SS would have taken it anyway. And my teeth would have been in a heap in some SS warehouse, along with the golden fangs of many others.” So the people agreed. One of them who was a dentist in Cracow, extracted the gold. He passed it on to a jeweler, who melted it and fashioned a ring. On the inner rim of that ring, he inscribed the following words from the Talmud, “The one who saves a single life saves the entire world.”
(James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

15) “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway!”: One night at 11:30 p.m., an older African-American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960’s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away… God Bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.” Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole. (Nat King Cole was a great American Musician). Fr Eugene Lobo S.J.

16) Attitude of Gratitude: Some years ago, the movie What About Bob? came out. It humorously depicted a division of humanity between those who were grateful and those ungrateful. Richard Dreyfuss starred as a psychologist who has everything: a lovely wife and children, a dream house, a successful practice and a best-selling book which gives advice for problem solving. But the psychologist himself has a problem: nothing makes him happy. By way of contrast, he has a patient named Bob who possesses very little, but shows a dog-like gratitude for any scrap he receives. Played by Bill Murphy, Bob winds up at the psychiatrist’s home as an uninvited dinner guest. He savors each item of food, loudly expressing his satisfaction. Unaccustomed to such gratefulness, the wife is pleased, but her husband grows more and more irritated until he finally explodes, slamming his fists on the table and telling Bob to be quiet. – Our genuine happiness lies not in what we achieve, but in how we receive. A sense of accomplishment is important, but much more significant is having an attitude of gratitude. Our ability to receive the great gift of Faith depends on our attitude of gratitude.
(John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word).

17) Best of Gifts: There is a huge fortress on a hill overlooking the town of Weinsberg in Germany. One day far back in feudal times, the fortress was surrounded by the enemy. The commander of the enemy troops agreed to let all women and children leave the fortress. He also agreed to allow each woman take one valuable possession with her. Imagine the amazement and frustration of the commander when he saw each woman leave the fortress with her husband on her back! Charity begins at home. The hardest place to practice the Gospel is at home in my own house. (Jack McArdle in And that’s the Gospel Truth!)

18) Ingratitude is capital offense: In his best known work, Gulliver’s Travels, Dublin-born poet and satirist, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) invited his contemporaries to confront the dark, seamy side of human nature. Through the exploits of his featured character, Gulliver, and his travels to four imaginary lands, Swift exposed the malice and venality of society, the frivolity of its intellectual concerns and its repeated failures, both as regards virtue and wisdom. By way of contrast, Swift offered the example of the society of the Lilliputians among whom such shortcomings as ingratitude were regarded as criminal. In a description of the law in Lilliput, he wrote: “Ingratitude is reckoned among them as a capital offense; for they reason thus, that whoever makes ill return to his benefactors must needs be a common enemy to the rest of mankind, from whom he had received no obligation. And, therefore, such a man is not fit to live”(sic). Swift admitted in a letter to his friend, Alexander Pope, that he used his pen so harshly in order to “vex the world rather than divert it.” Could it be that the Lucan evangelist included the narrative of the nine ungrateful lepers who were healed by Jesus to similarly vex his readers? Inasmuch as many of us are, at times, culpable of such ingratitude, then perhaps a certain degree of vexation, i.e., discomfort, is warranted. (Patricia Datchuck S├ínchez)

19) Mountain-moving faith: An old woman regularly read the Bible before retiring at night. One day she came across the passage that said: “If you have Faith as little as a mustard seed and ask the mountain to go away, it will go.” She decided to test the efficacy of the passage as there was a hillock behind her house. She commanded the hillock to go away from there and went to bed. In the morning she got up as usual and remembered her command to the hillock. She wore her spectacles and peered through the window. The hillock was there. Then she muttered to herself, “Ah! That’s what I thought.” – What she thought was that the mountain would not move. While her outer mind gave the command, her inner mind was convinced that she was giving a futile order. She did not have even an atom of faith!
(G. Francis Xavier in The World’s Best Inspiring Stories; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

20) Kindness and gratitude: One day, so says an old legend, God gave a banquet for all his servants, and a really grand feast it was. All the virtues came and had a fine time. Humility was there, sitting in the lowest place at the table. Patience was there and didn’t mind at all being served last. Faith and Hope sat together on one side, while Justice and Peace sat together on the other side. Everyone was having a wonderful time. At the height of the banquet, Charity noticed that two of the virtues were strangers to each other. He was surprised because he thought they were always together, and he had purposely placed them side by side for that reason. He came down to them and asked each one whether she had met her partner before. When they said they had not, Charity introduced them, Kindness, I want you to meet Gratitude.” Both the virtues were so surprised to find out who the other was. Kindness said to gratitude, “We are supposed to be together always. Where one of us is, the other should be. Isn’t it a pity that we have never really met before.” Yes, Kindness and Gratitude are supposed to be together always. Where one is, there the other should also be. (Fr. Lakra).

21) The presence of God who gives healing and consolation in our afflictions: The following story illustrates the presence of God who gives healing and consolation in our afflictions (cf. Julie Garmon, “Fearless: What Prayer Can do” in GUIDEPOSTS, June 2010, p. 86). I couldn’t believe what my doctor was telling me. “I need to monitor you closely, Julie, for whatever might come next.” I had just been diagnosed with two autoimmune disorders – celiac disease and Sjogren’s Syndrome. What more could happen? “I wish I could be more definite, Julie”, my doctor continued. “But autoimmune illnesses cause the body to attack healthy tissue. They are really quite unpredictable.” As I let his office, I felt a cold rush of fear. How could I live like this? The minute I got home; I went looking for help on the internet. The information there was even more vague and frightening. By bedtime, my mind was whirling with negative thoughts. My body was under attack from itself. How could that be? I couldn’t close my eyes until I’d said a prayer. Oh. God, I feel so alone. So vulnerable. Help me know that you are with me. In the morning I was still so preoccupied with worry that I barely made it to my yoga class in time. I walked in, took a swig from my water bottle and tried to calm down. As Velda, our instructor led us through the poses, I breathed deeply to clear my mind. Today, that was impossible. At the end of the class I lay tense on my mat, my mind racing. All was quiet. Then Velda did something totally unexpected, something she had never done in the year I had been taking her class. “Our Father, who art in heaven …” she began to recite. She was ending the class with the Lord’s Prayer! Others soon joined in. The sound of those voices praying soothed me deeply. My mind cleared. The tension in my shoulder eased. The knot in my stomach disappeared. Peace filled me. I made sure to thank Velda. “I needed that prayer more than the yoga today”, I told her. “You know, I didn’t plan to do that”, she said. “But something told me I just had to say it.” Or Someone. I rolled up my mat and headed home. I knew that no matter what the future held, God, not fear, would be leading me through it.

22) Shirley Caesar Lyrics: “No Charge” (https://youtube/CJAfz-Pvfrw)
My sister’s little boy came in the kitchen one evening
While she was fixing supper
And he handed her a piece paper he had been writing on
And after wiping her hands on an apron
She took the letter in her hands and read it
And this is what it said:
For mowing the yard, five dollars
And for making up my own bed this week, one dollar
For going to the store, fifty cents
And playing with little brother while you went shopping, twenty five cents
Taking out the trash, one dollar
And for getting a good report card, five dollars
And for raking the yard, two dollars
Total owed, fourteen seventy five
Well she looked at him standing there expecting
And a thousand memories began to flash through her mind
So she picked up the pen and she turned the letter over
And this is what she wrote to that little boy:
For the 9 months I carried you growing inside of me, no charge
For the nights I sat up with you doctored you and prayed for you, no charge
For the time and tears and the costs through the years, there is no charge
When you add it all, up the real cost of my love is no charge
For the nights filled with dread and the worries ahead, no charge
For the advice and the knowledge and the costs of your college, no charge
For the toys, food, and clothes and for wiping your nose, there’s no charge my son
When you add it all the real cost of my love is no charge
After that Mom finished talking to that little boy
He looked up at her with grand big ol’ tears in his eyes
And he said, Mama, I sure do love you
And then he reached out and he got the letter and he turned it over
And he wrote in grand big words:
Paid in full
When you add it all the real cost of my love is no charge