Thanksgiving Day Homily – 2014
Homily by Abbot Peter McCarthy: 11-27-2014
And now, bless the God of all,
Who has done wondrous things on the earth;
Who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb,
And fashions them according to his will,
May he grant you joy of heart.
My brothers and sisters,
These words from the Book of Sirach begin our readings for this Thanksgiving Day. We can use them as a light to illumine our Gospel text from St. Luke who obviously, deeply desires to open us to this joy of heart wherever we find ourselves this morning. In fact, Luke is in such a hurry to get to the point that he uncharacteristically skips over some of his favorite gospel material or “characters”. He is always telling us that Jesus is at home with outcasts, sinners, the unclean, the despised in his society. In fact, he actually eats with them, a grave scandal to the righteous.
Now here is a story with 10 lepers, 10 social outcasts, 10 sinners, 10 despised homeless men and women. You would think Luke would not be able to resist descriptions, personal histories, developing atmospheres, and reactions from onlookers. In short, everything a really good story deserves, but there is none of that for Luke this time!
The evangelist offers us a very stark canvas. Yes, an immense healing story… But stripped to its skeletal bones … just the bare basics.
They stood at a distance from Jesus
and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master have pity on us.”
And when he saw them he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
Luke has kept this cure, this miracle very stark because he has something else very important to tell us. It goes back to the Book of Sirach. He wants to teach us about how to find and experience true joy of heart. This is something that is even more important than being cured. To discover the Joy that is in your own heart… the Life within your life… yes, the healing that is within your illness…
And one of the lepers, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice,
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
My sisters and brothers, St. Luke is telling us that the grace of gratitude, the life posture of gratitude, creates an open and truly receptive heart. It is the open and receptive heart that alone can discover the joy within your own heart, the healing within your own illness.
We all recognize this at some level. We have all had a touch of this experience, this grace when quite unexpectedly, just like that Samaritan in the Gospel, we discover ourselves “opened” to gratitude.
I am reminded of a brief reflection of our Oregon poet, William Stafford.
Sometimes in the open you look up
where birds go by, or just nothing,
and wait. A dim feeling comes—you
were like this once: there was air,
and quiet; it was by a lake, or
maybe a river—you were alert
as an otter and were suddenly born
like the evening star into wide
still worlds like this one you have found
again, for a moment, in the open.
Our Gospel this morning calls us to such “Moments, in the open.” The homeless and despised Samaritan tells us that a grateful heart opens our everyday lives to Beauty and Truth; those real healing gifts that lie unopened all around us.
+ Abbot Peter McCarthy