God Owes Nothing; We Owe Everything
The Gospel Reading for November 14th, Luke 17:7-10, ends with Jesus saying to his Apostles, “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'”
Well, wait a minute, Jesus, don’t we have some kind of deal here that promises us good things if we “do good,” maybe some prosperity and good health and freedom from suffering and a long life and then a mansion in Heaven?
Well, not really. It is in the Gospel of John (14:15) that he says to his Disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” So, it sounds like we are to “do good,” loving God and our neighbor, motivated only by thanksgiving for the bounteous gifts we have received through our Baptism and Confirmation and the Eucharist and by love of Jesus, looking for and expecting nothing in return. We are not working for rewards but have a debt that neither can be nor is expected to be repaid. We owe everything to The Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and are neither owed, nor can we earn anything. The relationship of the believer with God is not a transaction but is based on divine love.
In All Things, Give Thanks
The Gospel Reading for November 15th, Luke 17:11-19, was about the Samaritan leper, one of ten healed by Jesus and the only one to return and thank Jesus for the healing. Jesus: “Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
With introduction to the discussion of leprosy, we have an intersection of suffering and thanksgiving. In Bible times, leprosy meant ostracism, isolation, and early death. Healing was miraculous and justified abundant and enthusiastic thanksgiving.
But here is a twist. St. Paul seems to say that Christians can be abundantly thankful even in suffering, “in all circumstances,” even leprosy! Here is the quote, in context:
We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.16 Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14-24
The Value of Adversity
(Father Linsky spoke of the value of adversity and how it can be redemptive and can strengthen us. The example of controlled adversity such as in military training for the purpose of preparing to deal with and survive uncontrolled adversity was given.)
In reflection, we might think about the relationship between THANKSGIVING and SELF ESTEEM and which is more emphasized in twenty first century USA culture.
Tom Gregory shared these verses from Sirach. This is a screen shot from the online Bible linked from this blog under Books/Aids. Footnotes included.
And Mike Ugino, esteemed Columbia hand surgeon and group member, spoke of Dr. Bland, hand surgeon who served lepers. You can buy Dr. Bland’s book here.
(1) The title of this post was inspired by the title of a song written at and sung by the brothers at Mepkin Abbey. Here is a quote about it from a sermon delivered at Mepkin: “For I believe that Joy is what shapes the minds and the hearts of all who make Mepkin their home. Richard Grendahl gave expression to this in the Entrance Song he wrote for our Founders Day Mass over 35 years ago: Sing a song of Joy Never Ending. Praise the Lord, the God of our life. Come before him singing thanksgiving. We are his people, he is our God.”