Readings: Sirach 50: 20-24; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19
We have all been the recipients of gratitude as well as ingratitude and thus we know very well the different feelings aroused by both. Furthermore, we also know the distinctly different feelings evoked by our own experience of gratitude and ingratitude towards others who are our beneficiaries. Gratitude–whether expressed to another or received from another–spontaneously evokes mutual feelings of warmth, closeness, appreciation and openness, whereas ingratitude provokes a sense of coldness, separateness and the experience of being closed off from the ungrateful person. In this we realize that gratitude is at heart about relationship, and ingratitude, that which undermines true relationship.
And this is well illustrated in the Samaritan cured of leprosy who returns to give Jesus thanks and thereby enters into relationship with him; while the other nine ungrateful men remain closed to relationship with Christ, their healer and savior. This is to assert that all beneficence, ideally, is not simply about giving some “thing”, but also about the gift of oneself–for which the gift serves as something of a symbol. And this is what makes ingratitude such an aversive experience; it is not simply that we aren’t thanked or our generosity acknowledged, but also because in some sense we experience it as a rejection of, or indifference to, the gift of ourselves. Conversely, giving thanks and expressing gratitude are not just the expected social niceties performed whenever we are the beneficiaries of another’s kindness, but rather the expressions of our openness towards the other and a simultaneous welcoming of the gift of themselves.
And if this is true in our relationships with one another, it is even truer in our relationship with God whose every gift and kindness towards us is insepararble from the gift of himself–indeed, every gift and kindness towards us is inseparable from the gift of himself–indeed, every gift that God bestows us is expressive of his desire to give us the ineffable gift of himself. Accordingly, our greatest act of thanksgiving is not any of the expressions of praise, gratitude and appreciation that we might express on a day such as today; but rather the greatest act of thanksgiving as far as God is concerned, is nothing more, nothing less than the gift of ourselves to him in love. Absent this gift of ourselves, our thanksgiving becomes less about love and more about duty and obligation. Therefore, as we come forward to receive Christ’s great gift of himself in the Eucharist, let us render him our own greatest act of thanksgiving by freely offering him the complete gift of ourselves in love.