And now bless the God of all,
who everywhere works great wonders,
who fosters our growth from birth,
and deals with us according to his mercy.
May he give us gladness of heart,
and may there be peace in our days
in Israel, as in the days of old.
May he entrust to us his mercy,
and may he deliver us in our days!
Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and tell of your power,
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Today in the United States, we celebrate the great feast of Thanksgiving. Americans all over the country will be sitting down today with family and loved ones to give thanks to God for his manifold blessings in all of our lives. This year, as we list the various ways God has blessed us and provided for us, let us not forget one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity: the gift of thanksgiving itself.
Our giving God thanks does not increase God’s greatness. Neither does our withholding thanks diminish him in any way. God is complete, and his grandeur does not require our acknowledgment to be fulfilled. But God gives us the ability to give him thanks so that we can be blessed with grateful hearts. Indeed, we are the sole benefactors of Thanksgiving. When we give God thanks, we look to our blessings instead of stare at our trials. Neuroscience is only now beginning to learn that we can physically train our brains to be happy through the act of gratitude. Instead of our consciousness defaulting to what is wrong with life and the sadness that follows, our gratitude causes us to default to feelings of happiness for all of the things that have gone right. The resulting chemical change in our focus and mood affects our bodies, our minds, our souls. The act of giving thanks opens our eyes to the more secret ways that God works, causing us to see how he acted and persevered with us, even when we were at some of the lowest points in our lives. The act of giving thanks sets us free from our mental bondage, enabling us to look up instead of down, enabling us to have hope based on what has gone right instead of despair at what has gone wrong. The act of thanksgiving is the will of God for us as he is the one who came to restore sight to the blind and liberty to captives. He opens our eyes and he sets us free by giving us the ability to thank him.
Look at the Samaritan in today’s Gospel. This man was condemned to death by the disease of leprosy. When God healed his disease, he came back and thanked Jesus for his goodness. He did not thank Jesus because he was hoping to get anything more from him, and surely, his thanks did not increase Jesus’ power to heal or his desire to bestow mercy. However, this man went from total oblivion to an eternal place of merit for his having given thanks. He is not one of the unnamed, unknown, and entirely forgotten nine lepers. He is set apart as the shining example for all of us how we are to act. And this is one glimpse of how an act of gratitude benefits the one who is doing the thanking.
Today, as we gather with our loved ones, as we celebrate and enumerate God’s blessings upon us, let us remember to give thanks for Thanksgiving. Let us give thanks that God has enabled us to be grateful, to see the ways he has worked in our lives and to still be grateful for how he has worked even when we could not see it. Let us thank him for the free will he has given us to follow him, for the ability to love him, and the gift of being in relationship with him through our gratitude.