Sunday’s Gospel reading was one of my favorites: the story of Jesus healing ten lepers. Â All ten are utterly thrilled to be cured — as you would expect — but only one comes Â back to say thanks.
At Mass, I took Matthew back to the Children’s Liturgy of the Word, where the kids heard an abbreviated version of the reading and then created their own Thank-You cards to Jesus. Â I helped Matthew with the spelling, but the printing is his very own (well, except for that first “S.”) Â Pardon me while I glow with pride at my four-year-old scribe.
So here’s a question: why is gratitude so important? Â I have wondered this more than once. Â Nearly every spiritual tradition I know emphasizes the giving of thanks — or counting blessings, or mindfulness, or whatever you want to call it.
Recently, my husband shared a story that relates to this very topic. Â He teaches adults who are converting to Catholicism, and one of them asked a terrific question about the Bible. Â “Why does God always tell people to praise him?” this person asked.Â “So many Bible verses are about how we should give glory to God. Â Does God really need that? Â After all, if you’re ‘the man,’ you don’t need other people to tell you you’re ‘the man.'”
It’s a great question. Â Frankly, I’ve wondered it myself. Â And when this question came up in the RCIA class, Scott told me that he addressed it by sharing a story from our parenting lives. Â He talked about how we, as parents, are always trying to remind Matthew to say “thank you” if we give him something. Â Why? Â Not because we need to hear the thanks, or because we’ll sulk if we don’t get recognition for handing our son a glass of milk. Â We make Matthew say ‘thank you’ because we want him to grow up to be a person of thanks. Â We want him to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
I love Scott’s answer, because “a person of thanks” just makes sense to me as a way to live. Â Based on my own experiences, Â when you give thanks, the thing you are thankful for becomes even more real, more vivid, more prominent. Â It does not just float out of your line of vision and become forgotten. Â You see it, grab it, hold onto it: Â in a good way. Â And really, why should we let the petty grudges, the annoyances, the disappointments claim so much of our mental space? Â Let’s rent some of that room to the blessings instead.
Anyhow, I was glad to hear the Gospel reading again.Â It was a welcome reminder to keep adding to my own mental list of blessings. Â And if you want to know what Matthew is grateful for, here is the list he wrote Sunday morning, inside his card:
— Police cars
If you think I melted inside, you’d be right.
Thank you, God, for my sweet Matthew.