All I want for Christmas is… a thankful heart! Well of course I also have a list on Amazon and then there is the health and safety of my loved ones to consider, and it would be great if my monetary debts were erased and the government didn’t tax me for the air my lungs inhale! And also if the stoplights all turned green when I approached would just be fantastic, and also if I was able to sleep a good night’s sleep each and every night! And then of course most certainly I would simply love it if gravy was not fattening and a fresh piece of cherry pie awaited me each evening! Where does my list end and my thankfulness begin?
In our Gospel reading today we are told about ten men with a terrible contagious disease. (Luke 17:12-19) All of these men were cured when they asked for mercy but only one was truly thankful! Jesus heals them of their disease but some chose to keep their hearts hardened. The others probably blamed God for having leprosy in the first place and refused to show humility to the Almighty! Saint Bede writes: “This one who went back giving glory to God is a figure of the one Church, in devout humility before Christ.” [Ib.]
The great saints of the faith remind us over and over again to give thanks to God in everything. Every challenge is an opportunity to detach ourselves from being in complete control of everything earthly and letting God be God, thankfully trusting in Him for everything. St. Nicholas of Myra directs us this way: “Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. (St. Nicholas of Myra, The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints by St. Demetrius of Rostov) We all need a thankful heart!
If you are still here breathing in, the invisible air that sustains your existence, you still have time! It will take some practice. Always remember it can always be much worse and always look for a glimpse of peace in the thunder of the mighty battle. And you parents remember that your children are God’s first and foremost. We are here to nurture them and accidently mess them up a little, after all, there is only one perfect Parent!! We all know that every parent tries to do a little better job than their parents, but let’s remember we are in a fallen world and we are infected with sin! Christ is there to bind our brokenness.
How is being thankful amidst suffering and persecution possible? I found time this week to watch “Man of God” about the great saint, Saint Nektarios of Aegina. He was greatly persecuted and humbled. “Thanks be to God” were the words that rolled off his tongue in the midst of trials! He is quoted as writing: “We have within us deeply rooted weaknesses, passions, and defects. This cannot all be cut out with one sharp motion, but patience, persistence, care and attention. The path leading to perfection is long. Pray to God so that he will strengthen you. Patiently accept your falls and, having stood up, immediately run to God, not remaining in that place where you have fallen. Do not despair if you keep falling into your old sins. Many of them are strong because they have received the force of habit. Only with the passage of time and with fervor will they be conquered. Don’t let anything deprive you of hope.” (St. Nectarios of Aegina)
Count your many blessings; thank God for another day to diminish your passions; and remember that everything good comes from above, and you dear ones were created to do good!! Your time here is limited! Thanks be to God in all things, all the time!!