Faith, Obedience, and Gratitude — and something a little different for a change… 14


Has Sunday ever snuck up on you before?

That’s what happened to me this week, which is why this post is going to be just a little different, but I’m taking advantage of providence to share what’s on my mind regarding the Liturgy we are gradually walking into this time of the year. But first…

Our usual brief reflection on today’s liturgy — very brief this time.

The first reading from 2 Kings 5:14-17 and the Gospel of Luke 17:11-19 teach us a lesson in faith, obedience, and gratitude. More specifically, that these three virtues go hand in hand with one another.

Namaan the Leper wants a miracle as do the lepers Jesus heals in the Gospel. In both cases, they are healed because of their faith and because of their obedience. What’s important to note here is that in both cases something ritualistic is required — bathing in a river 7 times, on the one hand, following the prescribed law of Moses, on the other. But in neither case is the ritual the most important thing.

The important thing in both cases is obedience, as an outward sign of practical faith. In both cases, they were healed on account of their faith, shown outwardly by their obedience. In both cases, faith was not a result of the the miracle they received (although they received the reward of having their faith increased as a result); rather, the miracle was a result of their faith.

Let us learn from this example to ask the Lord to increase our faith, which we can be sure he will do when we put our trust in him and follow his will through our obedience — as hard as that may be sometimes.

Lastly, our Lord reminds us of the virtue of gratitude.

Sometimes we can turn sour grapes when we don’t get what we want, what we believe we need when we ask for it in prayer. Last week, our we were told, “Wait for it, and it will come.” Today, Christ gives us the follow up on this lesson: When it comes, be sure to praise the Lord and thank him for it.

Perhaps, a latent lesson can be gleaned from this teaching too. When we start to feel like sour grapes, because we’ve been waiting for it, and waiting for it to come, and we feel ourselves starting to lose hope, we may want to stop and ask:

  • Have I been duly grateful for what I have received or have I taken it for granted?
  • Have a taken the time, as the one Samaritan leper did in today’s Gospel, to thank God?
  • Is there something I should be grateful for that I’ve been overlooking?

Or am I just expecting to get more? More of what I don’t necessarily need or deserve — especially if I have not been grateful for the gifts I’ve received.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it might be a good idea to do a little “personal advent” to prepare ourselves to really enjoy that feast for what it is meant to be — Turkey and Football!

Just kidding (but also that too)… Thankful for the gift of life, of liberty, of happiness, family, and faith.

Speaking of advents and thieves in the night…

2014 liturgical calendar (click here to see more)

2014 liturgical calendar (click here to see more)

This liturgical year is quickly coming to a close. The liturgy itself reminds us of this as the feast of Christ the King approaches. I like to think of this waning period of Ordinary Time as the advent before the Advent. Everything points toward the return of the King. Let’s be prayerful and vigilant as this great day approaches, and not be caught of guard (as I was for this Sunday).

Rather, let’s prepare ourselves to join him for the feast and celebrate with him, both in this world on the Feast of Christ our King, and in the eternal banquet in the next.

God bless you all!

14 comments

  1. Well for a post written in a hurry, it is amazingly insightful and profound! Many thanks for giving us so much “food for thought”…. as you always do.

    By the way, no Thanksgiving over here in Europe, I’m sorry to say. 😦 What a shame! It is really a beautiful idea to celebrate together with the family, thanking God for His innumerable blessings.
    Anyone know how the custom of Thanksgiving started in the US and Canada?

    • Thanks, Kathleen.

      I don’t know about Canadian Thanksgiving, besides the fact that theirs is about a month before ours (typical Amer’kin, eh?). Here’s what I do know about the Thanksgiving we celebrate in the United States.

      It was designated by President Lincoln during the American Civil War (coincidental, perhaps) as a national day to thank God for the blessings we’ve received, both individually and as a nation. Tradition holds that it was first celebrated by the Pilgrims (Protestant Non-Conformist) who sailed from England to the New World, seeking freedom to practice their religion. They settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. The majority of them died of illness on the Mayflower (their ship) and more than half of the survivors did not survive the first brutal winter after they arrived. Less than 2/3 of them survived in all.

      The Native Americans helped them to adjust and adapt to their new conditions, thus enabling the rest of them to survive and establish the first permanent colony in the what is now the United States.

      Incidentally, I’m a Southern Boy, but I lived in Plymouth, Mass., from the ages of 6-11. And I can attest to the fact that the citizens of Plymouth bear their heritage with a lot of pride. If you are every in Plymouth, you must visit the Plymouth Plantation, where actors dress in colonial garb and do everything like they did back in the 1620’s — and they never go out of character.

      As the legend goes, after the first harvest, the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving with their neighbors the Wampanoag Indians, as a feast to thank God for the blessing of endurance and a bountiful harvest; and to thank their new friends in the New World for teaching them to farm their new terrain.

      That’s the story as I recall it. Thanks for asking!

      • That’s a really fascinating story! Thank you so much James for taking the time to give me this long description.

        “Tradition holds that it was first celebrated by the Pilgrims (Protestant Non-Conformist)…”
        Good to hear of something positive coming out of Protestantism! 😉

        Yes, I would love to visit Plymouth, Massachusetts…. in fact I would just LOVE to visit the U.S.A. one day, God willing. I have never been there, but I have met plenty of wonderful kind-hearted Americans over here in Europe.

      • The Pilgrims, by the way, were seeking “freedom from” and “freedom to.” Freedom to practice their own religion; freedom from the imposition of the State religion, the Church of England. The were granted permission to sail to the New World for this purpose, after they sought asylum in the Netherlands.

  2. Great post, I really enjoyed the insights, especially as my mind stuck on the story of Namaan and his 7 dips in the river during the readings at Mass. It struck me as more “magical thinking” than prayer&miracle, and it bothered me. I didn’t even think about the obedience being the important part in the story. Thank you for that, and for giving me plenty more to think about and apply to other situations.

    • Magical thinking is a stumbling block for a lot of people. It can also a problem in that some people pray as if it were magical thinking. It is as if, for some people, asking God for a miracle is like practicing magic. I say, “like” practicing magic, not that they think they are practicing magic, but what they overlook is the element of real faith.

      I have a story to illustrate this point. My confirmation saint is Saint Anthony of Padua. I chose him, because as a child I invoked his intercession a lot when I lost things. Well, I lost my sunglasses while walking in the forest the other day. They were brown sunglasses that fell somewhere on the ground covered with brown leaves. After a long desperate search, I had to pray to Saint Anthony before giving up. He answered my prayer. He said: “You need to buy a cheaper pair of sunglasses!”

      I wasn’t asking for a magic trick, or even a miracle. But if I got angry and said, “That’s the last time I pray to Saint Anthony. He just doesn’t come through,” that would have been magical thinking. And that is what we need to avoid.

      • Interesting example, Biltrix. And you always make me laugh–what a great answer from St. Anthony.

        I think of “magical thinking” in a different, but muddled and confused way. More of a power thing, a control thing.
        In magic, one uses specific words and substances to invoke some sort of action: gaining power over, say, wind or rain, or someone’s fate. Gaining control over the results, if you say the words absolutely correctly according to a formula.
        To use your example, it would be using special magical words to force a result: “Dear St. Anthony, please come ’round. Something’s lost and it can’t be found!” That was the chant that I learned as a child, and I fully expected at the time that the good saint would deliver as a result of my invoking him correctly.

        I think that it that element/illusion of control that makes the difference between magic and miracle. Obedience has nothing to do with it, only pride and power.

        I think people do get it confused, and that is perhaps the danger in some popular devotions, that confusion and corrupted thinking. For example, a devotion that is near and dear to my heart: Divine Mercy. So, the Lord said that if you just only say those words, the soul that you are praying over will be saved. My first impression, upon reading excerpts from Sr. Faustina’s diary, was that it was the proper recitation of the words–the casting of a spell–that gained the saving. I was initially very uneasy with this impression and it turned me away from St. Faustina and this prayer. That the Lord God could be summoned and made to do what the pray-er wanted.

        I understand it much more fully now, but I think this might be a stumbling block and an example of magical thinking on the part of many. I would like to hear some really clear church teaching on this subject from the pulpit for all to hear.

  3. Pingback: Faith, Obedience, and Gratitude — and something a little different for a change… 8 | Parchment Paradigm+

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