We read in the Book of Deuteronomy:
When you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery (Deut. 8:12-14).
I’m not trying to dampen today’s national celebration of thanksgiving. And I’m certainly not accusing present company of such myopia; I honestly don’t think we’re blinded by overconfidence as we are eke out our future in fear and trembling!
But today’s Gospel presents nine lepers who settled for a formalized ritual to accredit their miraculous cure. One Samaritan cannot contain his gratitude. Did he remember that other admonition from Deuteronomy: you did not serve God your Lord with joy and gladness in the midst of the abundance of all. (Deut. 28:47)
Can any holiday, in and of itself, give thanks? How much does the polarized state of our country or our Church reflect the absence of gratitude? Offering the correct prayers, honoring the idea, serving a meal won’t suffice.
Gratitude is a way of life, concretely recognizing the dignity and incompleteness of each of us, our need for one another and our need for God. I cannot take for granted the roof over my head, the food on the table, the relative security of my life: most people on this planet know nothing like that.
Gratitude is not an isolated interchange between myself and God or some other person. When I’m truly thankful, I live from the awareness of my neighbor. Today’s collect reminds us to open our hearts to every man, woman and child. Is that reflected in our national celebration of Thanksgiving when we are separating families at the border and detaining children? Or when our school children, or African American churches or synagogues and mosques are subjected to random gun attacks? Is that reflected in our Church when we have failed to protect and give voice to children and women?
I can never afford to forget that Eucharist means “Thanksgiving”. Living from the perspective of gratitude is a way of unpacking the Eucharist throughout the day, throughout my interactions, throughout the fabric of our life together.