Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Second Timothy 2:8-13
Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen.
1. When I was in the seminary in St. Louis one of the things our rector, the head of the seminary, would say over and over again in his homilies and in the conferences and talks, was that as Catholic Christians we should always cultivate an attitude of gratitude. At the time I thought the saying “attitude of gratitude” was a bit hokey, but nevertheless there is a great truth in that statement. We, my brothers and sisters, do need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for what God has given us. For He has given us so much, he has blessed us as individuals, as a community, and as a parish family.
2. Our first reading from the Second Book of Kings recounts for us the healing of Naaman by the prophet Elisha and his immense gratitude for that healing. But what the reading doesn’t recount for us are the events leading up to this, and the fact that right before this, Naaman wasn’t exactly grateful at all, in fact he was rather upset that he didn’t get what he wanted from Elisha.
3. The whole story begins like this: “Naaman, commander of the army of the King of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper...”
4. As the story continues Naaman, through one of the servants of his wife, heard that there was a great prophet who could heal of him of his leprosy, so he went and sought him out. After a stop to see the King of Israel, he eventually made his way to Elisha. Here is how the Scriptures recounts the encounter between them:
Elisha said “Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a
prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and halted
at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying
‘go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you
shall be clean.’ But Naaman was angry, and went away, saying ‘Behold, I thought
that he would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord
his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper. Are not
Abana, and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of
Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away
in a rage.”
5. You see, Naaman had a preconceived notion about how the Lord would work in his life. He thought that there would be some sort of special encounter with all sorts of theatrics and special effects, and that the would be healed through this. As the story says, he wanted Elisha to come out and stand before him. He expected him to call on the name of God and wave his hands about and thus cure him. That’s certainly not what he got; all he got was Elisha’s servant telling him to take a bath in dirty water. He didn’t get what he wanted, and this reduced this great man of valor, this mighty warry to nothing more than a tantrum throwing self centered brat. He was healed, but not the way he wanted to be healed. Even though he was healed, he complained and moaned and groaned because he wanted it to be done according to what he like and what he wanted.
6. Sometimes we can be a lot like Naaman. We can be given everything we could ever desire, but we still complain, we still moan and groan because it wasn’t done the way we like it, or the way we are used to, or the way it’s always been done.
7. This sort of attitude can find its way into a lot of aspects of our lives. It can find its way into family life, into our work, into our social life, and sadly, even into parish life; even into the Holy Mass.
8. In the Mass we are given literally everything we could ever want, for we are given Jesus, God Himself, in the Holy Eucharist. We are fed with the very body and blood of Jesus, we are given the very life of God in our souls. What more could we possibly want? Yet, as any priest will tell you, there is nothing more complained about, nothing which attracts more moaning and groaning than the Holy Mass. It seems that no matter what parish one is at there are complaints about the décor of the Church, or about the music, or about the homily; and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Things like the use of chant, Latin, incense, and a whole host of other liturgical items can overshadow the beauty and true meaning of the Sacred Liturgy and foster a spirit of division and whining rather than a spirit of unity and gratitude which is at the heart of what the Eucharist is all about. Surely, there can be valid reasons to discuss why some of these things are used, but the discussion should always have gratitude and a spirit of thanksgiving for what we do have as its basis. Maybe in some places the music is bad or the homilies are boring, but at least there is Mass, at least there is the possibility of receiving Holy Communion, something that not everybody in our world has.
9. My brothers and sisters, God has given us so very much. We have so much to be grateful for, so much to thank God for. I hope and pray that the Eucharist can truly be a time to express an attitude of gratitude rather than a time to moan and groan. I hope that all of us can overcome in our lives that part of us that is like Naaman, who even though he was healed, was not satisfied because he wasn’t healed in the way he thought he should be healed. I hope that all of us will truly be grateful for the gift which is the Mass, even if it isn’t celebrated the way would like it to be celebrated. After all, the Mass isn’t about us and what we want or what we get out of it. The Mass is about God, and giving Him what is due to Him, namely our thanks.
10. Mary, our mother, is the perfect example for us of what it means to be men and women of gratitude. Her attitude of gratitude shined brightly throughout every moment of her life. I am sure that she didn’t particularly enjoy giving birth in a stable, or fleeing to Egypt, or seeing her Son suffer unimaginably. Yet she never uttered a single complaint, rather, she was grateful for the great gift which was bestowed upon her, namely Jesus. May we, like her, always be grateful that to have been bestowed the grace of having Jesus, God Himself, dwell within our very bodies in the Holy Eucharist. May we, like her, never give in to the spirit of complaining even if things aren’t the way we would like them to be. For by rejecting that spirit we will be embracing a true and holy attitude of gratitude.
Heart of Jesus, generous to all who turn to you, have mercy on us.
Mary, vessel of selfless devotion, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us.