Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
Cicero is known to have once remarked, “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.” The Christ may well have similarly taught, “A grateful heart is not only at the foundation of our best acts of worship to God, but is at the cornerstone of our best acts of service for others in the name of his kingdom.”
Gratitude will always remind us that we can never and should never exist for ourselves alone, but also for others, and that others exist for us as well. It is firmly in the nature of our humanity that we accompany and help each other through life, while religions offer the hope of accompaniment and succor of what or who we believe to be divine. Gratitude is thus embedded as necessary gestures in our cultures and rituals, consoling us that in spite of our shortcomings and failures, someone will always be present for us, ready to uplift us during moments of trial and tribulation. The “attitude of gratitude” is at the heart of community, ensuring that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that working together and appreciating each other, will always create better outcomes than what would be possible when we cannot or will not work together.
In today’s readings, the “attitude of gratitude” is underscored with the Syrian commander Naaman’s thanksgiving eventually expressed in the building of an altar to God and in his offering of sacrifices to no “other god but him;” as well as with the unnamed Samaritan leper’s poignant act of surrender at the feet of our Lord. It is to be distinctly noted that the Spirit is teaching us about the “attitude of gratitude,” through the ungrateful actions of people who believe they are deserving of divine grace, as contrasted to grateful actions of people who may not even be aware of divine grace. The Christ himself noted with perhaps some dismay, “Were not all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Did none of them decide to return and give praise to God, but this foreigner?”
Human nature it seems, regardless of creed, will be thankful in the face of the other virtues; the “attitude of gratitude” will manifest itself not only from anyone regardless of race or cultural norms underlying their social conduct, it will be engendered and nurtured simply in an environment of care, mutual responsibility and simple sharing, founded on simple living, humility and charity. Passive non-believers and even active rebels working against the Spirit may rationalize all they want about their faithlessness, but they can never deny saying a “Thank you” for acts of kindness performed for them, detached from any political and religious motives.
The “attitude of gratitude” therefore does not emanate from a conscious and disciplined compliance to the specifications of one’s religion, for it is clear that it can blossom amid the “un-religious.” It will happen only when we who professed to be faithful servants would simply give of ourselves to them “without counting the cost.” It will happen only when we give not from a position of pride and power over them, but from a position of humility and solidarity with them. It will happen only when we can give not because we are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, but because we have understood what it really means to “be human.”
And happily, the “attitude of gratitude” is a self-propelling social force. It mysteriously plants a small seed of “faith” in the faithless; it begets something internally spiritual in the “un-religious.” The experience of a kindness received will be magnified exponentially into acts of kindness forwarded to others. Through this spiraling cycle of charity reinforcing gratitude reinforcing in turn, greater charity and so on, the kingdom of justice and peace may be achieved sooner than expected.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.
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