2 Kings 5:14-17, 2 Timothy 2:8-13, Luke 17:11-19
Return to give thanks to God: The Power of Thanksgiving.
An Old story was told about a little boy who has a deep and profound love for Jesus. He belonged to a family of six children and their father always takes them to church every Friday and Wednesday of the week.
It always happens that whenever they go to the church to pray, the little boy will approach the cross of Jesus Christ, say a little prayer and go.
One day, the father asks him what he normally says whenever he approaches the Cross of Jesus, and the young boy tells his father, “I tell him ‘I have heard about you, thank you’.
So, It happens that whenever the family goes to the church for any spiritual or liturgical activity, the little boy will approach the big cross and say “I have heard about you, thank you”.
One day, the little boy became very sick which nearly took his life. While, he is on His sick bed, an old man comes to the hospital, looking for the little boy.
This man also visits the hospital every Wednesday and Friday to see the little boy.
When he came, he inquired about the little boy and when he was told where he was, the old man gave the boy a lot of gifts and told him “I have heard about you, take these”. He did these several times until the boy recovered.
On the last day, while leaving the hospital, the young boy told the father that he wants to visit the cross again before going to the house, that he is missing coming to the cross of Jesus, as they are planning to go, the old man visited again.
Immediately, the boy saw the man, he told the man to accompany him, so that they can visit the cross before going back to the house, but the old man said to him “I am already here with you, I have heard that you want to come, thank you” Immediately, the old man disappeared.
It then dawned on them that Jesus replicated that same love, the boy showed him. The little boy came with the greeting “I have heard about you, thank you” but the old man replied with this greeting “ I have heard about you, take these”. When we thank God with all our hearts, we must surely get a response or reply from Him.
Jesus would have kept quiet when the leper returned to give thanks. But once there is thanksgiving, there is always a moment of replying. Jesus also uses that to tell us the need to return to give thanks to God always.
In the story, those moments of thanksgiving were moments of sowing, for the little boy. He was thanking God with his sincere heart, not knowing that actually, he is taking.
Such is the power of thanksgiving. Whenever we return to give thanks, we encounter God’s love, kindness, graces and blessings more than we ever gave. This is the message of the readings of today.
Let us take the readings one by one in a simple analysis.
The Need to Give thanks to God.
Let us quietly sit down and recollect the great things God has done for us. Did you remember the people that started this year with you? Have you gone to the morgue before? Have you gone to the hospital before?
Take your time and visit the cancer patients. Take your time and go through the streets and see how people are walking down the streets begging and suffering.
Are you better than them? Have you taken the time and go to the prisons and see how people are yearning for freedom? How many of your prayers have been answered with great testimonies?
Then why do you find it so difficult to return and give thanks to God? Why then do we want to be begged to say, God, thank you for what you did or do for me?
We need to live a life of thanksgiving. Sometimes we remember God only in times of suffering and difficulties, but when God comes to our rescue we abandon God.
2. In the first reading, after Naaman the leper obeyed Elisha and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, he encountered healing. His flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.
Then Naaman did not wait to be reminded of the need to give thanks. He returned to Elisha with his whole escort, to give thanks.
In the gospel, as Jesus entered one of the villages on the border between Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, and then asked Jesus to pity them.’
Immediately, Jesus saw them and asked them to go and show themselves to the priests. Now as they were going away they were cleansed.
Now when one of the lepers discovered that he was cured, he turned back to praise God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
Then Jesus queried the reason, only the foreigner came and gave thanks. What of others? This in essence points out the power and the need to always return and give thanks to God.
In the Alleluia Chorus taken from the 1st Thessalonians 5:18, Saint Paul says that For all things, we have to give thanks, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 136:1 repeats three times, asking us to give thanks to God.
The psalmist says
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever
Our Leprous times and Lack of Desire to give Thanks to God.
1. When we deeply and critically think about our lives, we will notice that we only love to take but not to give. We are only interested in what God would do for us and not what we shall do for God.
This is the reason many of us can spend our last money or whatever we have to seek for something but once we get what we want, off we go.
When the lepers were deeply in need was when they remembered God. But when they were healed, they forgot the same God that healed them. This is where we are.
2. I was seriously imagining that when the other leper wanted to return, he must have told his brothers. There might be a discussion among them either to return or not.
The ten were healed because Jesus was asking about the remaining nine. Therefore, He knows that all of them were cured.
Now, how these nine forgot just within a minute or little of it and within a twinkle of an eye the person that healed them is what baffles me.
In their leprous times, they remembered Jesus but after they were healed, they forgot Jesus. This is how we also forget everything God has done for us within a twinkle of an eye. We only call God, in times of difficulty.
We have to know that God also deserves our moments of thanksgiving.
3. In the Gospel, the ten lepers were calling Jesus from a distance. They are observing what was prescribed in the Mosaic Law. So, upon seeing Jesus, They do not come close but shout from a distance: “Jesus, Master! Pity us!”
The point is that the Law of Moses laid down some rules, to prevent the spread of the disease. According to this law, lepers should live away from other people.
They should not have any contact with the people (cf. Leviticus 13:45-46). This explains why they did not come right up to Jesus and his group but instead begged his help by shouting from a distance. They are like people who are abandoned.
So, our leprous times are those times we feel like everybody has rejected us.
Our leprous times are those times we are passing through a lot seeking divine intervention. They are those times we were praying and fasting seeking that heaven hears our prayers.
They are those times of our abandonment, devastation and suffering. Normally, this is the time we do remember that there is God.
This is the time we begin to seek a minister of God that will help us in prayer. But when we get what we want, then off we go. We forget to return and give thanks to God.
Reason Many Do Not Give Thanks.
1. From the gospel, I was asking myself, what could have made the other nine decide not to come back to give thanks. A few of my reasons are:
a.It could be they do not see the need for that, since they are healed
b. The other nine may also consider that Jesus is one of their own, they may see it as their right, since it is coming from a jew, one of their kinsmen. This may answer the question of the reason only the Samaritan came back.
C. it could also be that they focused on their work and forgot about Jesus entirely.
D. The remaining nine may not even see much of God’s hands on their healing, since they were healed on the way. Jesus didn’t touch them nor call down fire from heaven to heal them. So, it could be that they could not see the hand of God on their healing.
E. It could also be that they attributed the healing to their efforts instead of God’s intervention.
2. When you also look at the reasons above, you will also observe with me the reason, we find it hard to return and give thanks to God. We do not give thanks to God or desire to, because we do not see the reason for that since we have gotten what we want.
We think we have everything now, so there is no need to waste our time further.
This explains the reasons many of us seek God with all our hearts but when we think we have gotten what we want, we abandon our prayer life and go back to square one.
B. Secondly, like the nine, we may even see the answer to our prayers as our right, since we prayed and fasted to get it. So, for us what we got from God is our right, and we think there is no need to go back to thank God.
C. Thirdly, we also forget God entirely when we feel we have gotten all we want from God.
D. Also because we didn’t see God come down from heaven to inspire the doctor that treated you, because we didn’t see the Holy Spirit come down, because we did not see God send His angels convince your employer to take you, that becomes the reason we do not see it as anything to return and give thanks to God.
E. Also sometimes we attribute everything to our efforts, we hence forget the grace of God that made it happen.
How many of us praise ourselves when something good happens to us, yet we will not give God any little time for Thanksgiving? We think it is by our power. Can we still remember the good things God has done for us?
Sometimes we see it as a heavy task when we do things in the house of God. We forget also, that in everything, God receives all glory.
In 2 Corinthians 9:12, Paul says “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Let us understand this.
The Other Nine or the One.
Therefore, we have to ask ourselves, where do we belong? Are we the other nine or the one? The other nine are those who find it hard to return and give thanks to God because of the many reasons that I said above.
The other Nine are those who remember God in leprous times but forget Him in the time of joy.
When we receive what we want, no one will remember again to return and give thanks to God. We are so ungrateful whenever it comes to Thanksgiving.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, many Christians think that what they are doing or what they want to do is for the benefit of the minister in charge, they do not want to give God through the minister, yet when problems come, they seek God through the minister.
They only remember the minister in times of trouble, and in times of seeking God’s presence but run away immediately when they get what they want.
When we give thanks or when we do thanksgiving, it is something that is between you and God. You are not giving it to the minister.
Today, Jesus instructs the lepers to go and show themselves to a priest.
So, the aim of this homily today is to reveal to us the power of thanksgiving and the need to return and give thanks to God.
If gratitude is not important, Jesus would not have felt somehow today because some of the lepers that he healed didn’t come back to give thanks.
Today, we lack that sincere attitude. This is where we fail woefully. We find it so reluctant, unwilling, tired, and unnecessary to showcase our thanksgiving to God.
We relegate thanksgiving and think that it is nothing, yet we forget that thanksgiving is even the surest and easiest route of taking and attracting love, blessings and graces from God.
The Thanksgiving that God loves.
The problem is that after reading all these, we will still play down the need to praise and give thanks God for what He has done and is doing for us. We hardly think of thanksgiving. Even when we do it, we do it grudgingly as if we are coerced.
The thanksgiving that God loves must come from a sincere heart. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul says that “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion”.
In the first reading today, Naaman willfully, willingly, without being reminded came on his own to give thanks. It is something that came from a sincere heart. In the gospel, the leper returned on his own. This is the thanksgiving that touches God.
2. Secondly, Thanksgiving must be something you do joyously. It needs to gladden your heart that you do this to God. You are not doing it because somebody forced you to do it and then you do it anyhow. When you give thanks to God, your soul, your heart, your entire self needs to be immersed in an ocean of joy.
The leper that was cured today, was praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. You imagine the joy, desire, gladness and hunger to do this.
This is the type of thanksgiving that God wants. It is not the one we do, and still feel as if someone is flogging us to do it. Your thanksgiving to God must come from the heart.
The Blessings that come through Thanksgiving.
1. Thanksgiving leads to victory over the kingdoms of darkness and every affliction. Thanksgiving is the surest and easiest way to victory.
David was known as a master psalmist, always giving thanks to God, and in every battle that He went into, He was victorious.
In 2nd Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat was victorious because he was praising and dancing unto the lord.
2. It is the secret of answering prayers. Thanksgiving makes your faith strong and thereby gives you greater access to God’s abundant graces and resources. Thanksgiving is the platform on which your request is delivered faster to God.
It paves the way for the manifestation of your prayer. It is the vehicle that helps convey your prayer faster to God.
In Philippians 4:6 Paul says “do not be anxious but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
3. Thanksgiving is the easiest route to miracles and multiplication. Whatever you thank God for every time, multiplies. Many Great men and authors like Joseph Murphy and Rhonda Bryne call gratitude a magical form of prayer.
It is a world of great wonders. We shall discover that in many miracles that Jesus did, especially in the feeding of five thousand, He thanked God first. He will bless God first.
This is also one of the reasons the Holy mass is very powerful, Mass is a thanksgiving prayer to God for the salvation he wrought in our midst through His son Jesus Christ.
4. Thanksgiving is also the secret of attracting grace, love, and divine surprises. The more we thank God every day, the more we come close to Him.
We can see how Jesus marvelled seeing that just one person came to thank Him. This is how it is when we thank God from a sincere heart.
5. To give thanks to God, is also the secret of healing. When the leper returned to give thanks to Jesus, despite that he was already healed, Jesus said to Him, your faith has saved you. Therefore, the leper received both the healing of the soul and body.
Through the gratitude He showed to Jesus, He had easy access to God’s salvific power. The Samaritan receives not just healing but blessing and salvation. Jesus blesses Him for coming back to appreciate and also proclaims that His faith has saved Him.
1. We can assert with full confidence that Healing also comes through obedience to God’s word.
In the gospel of John 2:5, the Blessed Virgin Mary told the servants before the miracle at Cana that they should do whatever Jesus tells them. They did not say no to it. They followed the instructions and later there was a miracle.
In the first reading, Naaman obeyed what Elisha said to go and immerse himself seven times in the River Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. He initially did not want to do it. He was seeking simple instructions. This is where we also make mistakes sometimes.
We do not want to follow instructions, yet when it seems as if God is silent, we turn back to blame God. When Elisha obeyed, His flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.
Also in the gospel, the healing happens when the lepers obeyed Jesus’ instructions to go and show themselves to a priest.
We have to learn how to obey instructions. A person will go to a native doctor, who will instruct him on what to do to perform some rituals. The person will obey. But when they come to the church and the priest asks them to say only psalm 51 or book masses, they find it very very reluctant to do so.
We know that God is very merciful, hence let us learn to obey and follow instructions. Obey your priests and support their works.
2. We do not know actually when God will answer our prayers. We do not know when the healing may occur. It can occur now or tomorrow or next tomorrow. The lepers today focused on obeying instructions, when their healing happened it took them by surprise.
This is how God is. We do not have to give up on God. As the lepers obeyed Jesus, let us always obey. Also, as the lepers keep going to the priests and none gave up on the road, let us also do the same. Keep hanging your faith there, keep going, keep moving. One day, God will surely remember you again.
3. We have to understand that God is always faithful to His words. In the second reading, while writing to Timothy, Paul says that it is on the account of bearing testimony to Jesus that He is bearing His hardships to the extent of chaining him like a criminal.
Therefore, He relies on the saying that If we have died with him, then we shall live with him. Also If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.
But If we disown him, then he will disown us. We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful, for Jesus cannot disown himself.
Therefore, it means that God is always faithful to His promises and willing to save us. We are the people who do not have time for Him.
In essence, We do not take Him seriously, and that is why we find it hard to give thanks when Good things happen to us. We are the people who easily abandon God. God doesn’t and will not abandon us.
4. Also, let us learn to return to the source of our blessings. Naaman returned to Elisha. Elisha rejects his gifts not necessary that He cannot take them but He wants Naaman to understand that His interest is not on material things but for the salvation of the soul of Naaman.
Elisha is also using that opportunity to refocus the mind of Naaman on God that God is truly the source of the miracle. This corrects the impression we do have when there is that temptation to worship men, instead of God.
Also, the leper returned to Jesus, It is good to always return to the source of our blessings. Go to God and say thanks to Him.
Secondly, when somebody does something for you, do go back and show how grateful you are. The problem is that many of us feel so entitled to another person’s gifts and resources.
No matter how close you are to anyone, you do not have an entitlement to anything that belongs to him or her. Always show gratitude, if he or she is helping you.
5. So, the questions we have to ask ourselves today are: do we give God a sincere hour of thanksgiving? Have we sincerely given thanks to God for once?
Do we go to Him only when we need something? Or are we like the other nine lepers, who after getting what they want, immediately forget about God? Have you gone for thanksgiving before?
Or are you waiting for signs and wonders to happen before you do that? In today’s gospel, the nine missed the blessing that the Lord implicitly gave to the man who returned to give thanks at last.
Do you agree with me that there could still be blessings that we have missed or may be missing because of our life of ingratitude? Let us think about this.
“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” – St. Ambrose
May God bless you, dearest. May our thanksgiving to Him continue to rise like incense to God’s divine presence. Amen