True story: many years ago, when I was in my 30s, I recall an incident on a day, which was a particularly good day for me. My work was going well and left the office feeling happy with my situation. You remember those days when everything goes well, and you are on top of the world. I decided that I would stop to pick up my favorite dinner – fried chicken – on the way home. I also recall it was a bright and beautiful sunny day. On my way out of the store and back to the car, a gentleman, obviously homeless, stopped me and asked for some money for food. Now, this is the part I remember most – I told him I didn’t have any money to spare and walked past him. Later, on reflection, I was despondent. I could have given him money; I could also have given him my meal and purchased another for myself. All these years later, this incident still haunts me because I was so full of myself.
I tell you this because of the lesson I learned all these years later: that I was not grateful enough for what I had and too selfish to share with another. When I say it still haunts me, I genuinely mean it.
Now, truthfully, I have, as I’ve grown in my faith, developed a self-program for giving back. The charities I choose to support, including the ministries that feed and clothe the hungry or provide disaster relief around the world. But for some reason, I still can’t shake this one instance of neglect. It is a recurring thorn in my side.
The story today about the ten lepers carries with it several lessons, not the least being a caution to be thankful for what we have and not to hold on to it but to give back. Another lesson is of not being judgmental of those who are not grateful to you for what you do. Can you imagine Jesus “taking back” the healing of the nine who did not return to him? He didn’t. But Jesus was sure to let the one who did return know that his gratitude was appreciated, and his faith saved him.
I have come to believe that saying “thank you” to our Lord in prayer for blessings received is not enough. I must also express that gratefulness in my actions. And not only in monetary ways but also by giving a helping hand when needed or a bit of comfort to someone grieving. These are all ways of saying, “Thank you, Lord, for what you have given me. Thank you, Lord, for my faith in you that allows me to give to others without worry about my want. Thank you, Lord, for the trust that you will always take care of me, no matter what.” These can be hard lessons to learn.
“In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.