We are a Eucharist people. Eucharist is what brings us here this evening. It is the heart of our spiritual lives. Eucharist of course is a Greek word meaning "giving thanks." We are supposed to be a people in the habit of "giving thanks." But sometimes I wonder: Are we really in the habit of giving thanks? Tonight's Gospel tells us that only one of ten people cured of the dreaded disease of leprosy took the time and effort to thank the One who healed them. Are we any better on average?
Do we live a thankful life? When we look back at what has happened to us over our lifetimes, do we too easily divide our lives into good things to be grateful for and bad things to forget (if we can!)? Actually, we may spend a lot more time remembering the "bad" than the "good" : thus poisoning our human relationships. When we divide our past into good and bad, blessings and curses, we can never move freely into the future. With so many curses on our minds, we can only limp into the future.
True thanksgiving embraces everything in our past, all of it! : the bad and the good, the sorrows and the joys, the pains and the pleasures. When we look back at our lives, every single thing we've experienced has brought us to the here and now. We should want to remember all of it to be fully human. This doesn't mean that everything that happened to us in the past was good, but it does mean that the bad doesn't happen outside the loving presence and providence of the Spirit abiding within us. There is a silver lining in every human experience if we look deeply enough to learn from it. Jesus' own suffering was brought upon him by the forces of darkness; yet he speaks about his suffering and death as his way to glory. We were all baptized in Christ, into his suffering and death, yes, but also into his glory.
It is very difficult for us to "give thanks" to God for the pains and disappointments of our lives. There are so many things about which we feel guilt and shame, so many things we simply wish had never happened. But each time we muster the courage to look at it all, and to see it as Abba God sees it, our guilt becomes a happy guilt and our shame a happy shame because it brings us a deeper realization of God's unfailing mercy, a stronger conviction of God's healing graces and a more honest determination to live our lives in service to each other.
Once we arrive at that point wherein we are truly thankful for everything that happens to us (the good and the bad), we free ourselves to proclaim the Good News, to be the Good news. Peter's triple denial doesn't paralyze his spirit; once forgiven, he becomes an even more effective messenger of the Gospel. So it is with us. All our past failures and betrayals are transformed by giving God thanks, enabling each of us to walk with Jesus through suffering and death to glory.
A wise human being once said: "If the only prayer you ever pray in your whole life is "thank you, God!" that is good enough!" A prayer simple enough for us all!