Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
This week Americans will gather around the table, and in some households, they will share that for which they are grateful. One day out of the year, everybody calls to mind their blessings, and for believers, they give thanks to God. Thanksgiving Day affords us the opportunity to ask ourselves, “How grateful am I the rest of year?”
When I pray to God each day, do I thank Him for the many ways He has provided for me? Which leper in the gospel do we identify with—the one who came back to thank Jesus or the others who went along their way. The one seized the opportunity to give thanks, the other nine missed the opportunity.
Every day, in our prayer we miss opportunities to give thanks to God. All we need to do is open our eyes and become aware of those opportunities. Here are a few missed opportunities for us to begin giving thanks to God.
What’s the first thing you think of when you wake up each morning? Is it, “I can’t believe it’s morning” or some other similar thought? Or, do you fall to your knees and thank God for the beginning of a new day?
Each night, those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours entrust themselves to the mercy of God, not knowing if we will be given another day. Each new day presents an opportunity for us to give thanks to God for life and all that will come our way.
Many believers offer a pray before they eat. It might be a memorized prayer like, “Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen.” But how often do we give thanks to God following a meal, and there is a prayer for that: “We give you thanks O Lord, for these and all thy many blessings, who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.” After a satiating meal, remember to give thanks, because many people throughout the world will go without.
Reaching Your Destination in Safety
Just the other week, I landed in Green Bay at the airport after a turbulent flight, went to baggage claim, and then to my car. \It would have been the perfect opportunity to thank God for bringing me home safely, but later that night in my Examen, I realized I missed an opportunity to give thanks, and the next day’s gospel of the ungrateful lepers reminded me of it.
Every day we commute from place to place. Some people have a custom of praying before departing in their vehicle. But do we give thanks once we reach our destination in safety? This Thanksgiving, wherever you travel, when you arrive, be sure to thank God for allowing you to travel in safety.
One might not think to give thanks for sickness, but that too can be a missed opportunity. Whatever suffering comes our way allows us to identify with Jesus who suffered for us, and we are able to offer it as redemptive suffering, for some good. Maybe we should look at sickness and suffering in a different light, as a way to offer a prayer, knowing that not only can we be grateful but knowing too someone else who is the recipient of the graces of our prayer is also moved to gratitude.
Another missed opportunity for gratitude occurs at the death of a loved one. It is a time of sadness, mourning, and grief, but depending on the deceased’s situation, it might also be a time to thank God for calling him or her home to eternal life. When you a see a person suffer for so long and then realizing in death there is no more pain or suffering, we can be moved to offer a prayer of thanks to God.
That was the case with my mother’s death last year. I knew all the suffering she was going to endure with an amputation of a limb and how difficult life was going to be, that when she passed unexpectedly, it was a moment to thank God for sparing her of that pain. Also at the death of someone we love, we are moved to thank God for all the ways He blessed us through that person’s life.
For Confession and Forgiveness
Many Catholics celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation once or twice a year, while others frequent the sacrament weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Once the priest assigns us a penance, we pray our Act of Contrition, receive absolution, and are sent forth, what do we do next? Maybe it is to complete the penance, but I’d recommend also thanking God for the forgiveness which we receive through the sacrament.
Often when I am in line as a penitent to make my own confession, I see people leaving the confessional and exiting immediately. Maybe they pray as they walk, but it might behoove us to pause briefly and thank God for his mercy, rather than taking it granted.
For the Eucharist
Every Sunday when we attend Mass and are able to present ourselves for Holy Communion, it is a privileged moment. After making your way back to the pew, what do you do next? I’d recommend offering a prayer of thanksgiving.
Jesus has come under our roof and we have communed with him. God is with us and that should move us to thanksgiving. You might pray something like this: “Thank you Jesus for allowing me to receive the Eucharist today. May it be a source of healing and strength in my life. Remind me that you are with me every moment of every day. Amen.”
For the Protection of the Angels and the Intercession of the Saints
We are unaware of the invisible realities around us and how our Guardian Angel protects us, St. Michael defends us, and the saints pray for us. But we know and believe in the efficacy of our prayers. When St. Anthony helps us find our lost keys (a prayer I say daily) or another saint obtains a grace from God for us, be sure to say thank you.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let us ask God to make us aware of the things for which we should give thanks. And with that awareness, be sure to offer a prayer of gratitude, at the beginning of each day, in the moment, and each night before we close our eyes in sleep. Never again allow a missed opportunity to give thanks pass you by. Instead, give thanks always.