"Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" Lk 17:18
The feast of Thanksgiving is a time to return to the God who has so often healed us, to pause and remember all those who God has given us as companions in faith, who have accepted our faults and lifted up our strengths. Honestly, if any of us began to name all of these people today, the list would stretch around the world. Today let us sing alleluia for friends and enemies who showed us God's face even when we were distracted by self absorption or lost in self pity.
We also thank God today for allowing us to play a small role in the healing of others. Broken families, shattered marriages, lonely teenagers, desperate older people and the mentally ill, to name just a few, have all been given to us as gifts. Today we thank God especially for never thinking that the healing relationships we have been privileged to share with the lost have been our doing. Most of the time the only thing we had to give others was time itself, and that was often enough, even more than enough. Though most of us could never have imagined the path God would set us upon, today we acknowledge that all is grace, all is gratitude, and all is rooted in the unconditional love of God.
For most of us, it is only the gift of years that enables us to say that God has always been at the center of our lives even when we were "out of round", running around trying to save the world, or unwilling to hand ourselves over to God. God never left us. We often left God, and in the middle of our wandering, we frequently left friends behind and hurt more than a few. From those we have forgotten or taken for granted, we can only ask pardon and rely on God to heal them and help us change.
Today let us also give thanks for all the people we have met along the way who live totally other centered lives. In every assignment of my religious life, I have met and been converted by powerful people of faith who walk gently on the earth and help others to do the same. Some of the people God has sent my way have served as volunteers in the same hospitals, the same food pantries and the same shelters for half a century, but what is most remarkable about them is not their simple fidelity but the grace they still have to meet each new person in need with dignity, compassion and gratitude. Everywhere I go those who have been privileged to serve the poor echo the same mantra: Those I have served have given me more than I could ever give them.
Today, find a quiet place, even if only for a minute, to breathe in gratitude for all God has given you and breathe out hope to those who find life an overwhelming burden.