Before we get into what the message of today's scripture means I think we need to know a little more detail about the first reading. We heard that this guy Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha but we didn't hear that Naaman, who had leprosy, was the commander of the Syrian army which was raiding Israel. He had captured a girl who became the servant of his wife. The girl told him that if he would go to the prophet Elisha he would be cured of his leprosy. So he went to him and Elisha who told him to wash seven times in the Jordon River. Initially he refused saying the rivers in Syria were as good as the Jordon River but his servants convinced him that if Elisha had told him to do something difficult he would have done it, why not go wash and be cured. The rest of the story we heard which tells us that he did what the prophet Elisha said and was cured.
This story and that in today's Gospel reading are nice stories of miracles but is that their message? No, their message is there are many times to give thanks. In both of the reading from 2 Kings and Luke, thanks were given because of their being the subject of a miracle. But Scripture tells us, "Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything". The question for each one of us is, what percentage of our prayers are prayers of Thanksgiving or do we have to wait for a miracle to finally give thanks? Speaking for myself, I would say a not very high percentage. Our night prayers are essentially prayers of petition even though they are prayers which Padre Pio recited every day in which I knock, seek and ask for graces and in include prayers of intercession to The Little Flower in which I ask her to go to God and ask God to grant me favors. Even our Catholic prayer before meals is one of petition when we say: "Bless us Oh Lord ... which we are about to receive through your bounty, thru Christ Our Lord. Amen." Isn't the whole tone of our lives much better when we are thanking God and anyone else rather that when we are asking for something?
There was this man whose wife had just left him, he was really depressed and had been praying that his depression would leave him. He went to his favorite restaurant hoping that just that environment would reduce his depression but it didn't until a little girl there was prompted to say the meal prayer and she responded by praying: "God is great, God is good, we thank him for our food." Just those words improved things for him and in that restaurant. So even though things are bad, there is always reason to give thanks to God. In giving thanks to God or to anyone, our attention goes beyond ourselves and focus on another.
Another example of a person thinking of giving thanks when things exist that would lead a person to believe that there was nothing to give thanks for is a Lutheran pastor, Martin Rinkart in the early 1600s, who wrote one of the hymns we sang today, "Now Thank we all Our God". He wrote it during the "30 years War" in Germany in the early 1600s when he was conducting 50 funerals a day. Among those who die was wife.
We may not live in the best of times but they are many times better than he lived in. So our challenge at least for today is to do as St. Paul tells us: "Rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks in everything." See if that doesn't improve your and my life and the environment we live in.