This is my homily for Sunday 10 October 2010, 28th Sunday for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.
[__01] Why do we say thank you? A thank you note can be the elegant conclusion to an important endeavor.
Thank you “notes” come in various forms – they might not even be written. The “note” or communication might be –
• Spoken – such as in a speech
• Written – in a card
• Acted out – such as in applause or other ceremony. A trophy, perhaps. The Oscar – and that leads to more thank you’s by the Academy Award Winners.
Thank you’s come in various forms and methods. How we say thank you may vary.
[__02] When do we say Thank You? Here, we might simply say … well, at the end of something, such as –
• Big party
• Important speech
• Championship or prize
The speaker (or writer) wants to identify the contributors, every single person who contributed.
There can be so much pressure in the public thank you, especially if someone insists you we stand up a microphone. That’s could be daunting … and, perhaps, also exhausting. It takes effort.
[__03] In the Gospel, there is 1 leper who is healed and who gives thanks to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for this cure of leprosy.
This Samaritan leper returns, makes the effort, to say thank you.
He is the only 1 of 10 who does so.
[__04] He gives thanks after this healing, after this time of suffering. He gives his thank you at the end.
[__05] **** What does a thank you note express? Does it express that our relationship is a transaction completed. That is, please pay the check or please take your card. Or, does it is express that our relationship is continuing.
A thank-you also expresses my hope, my trust, my feeling that you – and I – have some ongoing relationship, some continuity.
In purely business transactions, we may not be interested in this. We start looking at our watches, trying to get home. So, when the project is completed or the meal served, we say…
• “Thank you”; then,
• “Check, please.”
[__06] In the Gospel, the leper who returns to give thanks is not simply coming back to pay the bill or settle the account. And, the fact that he is the Samaritan coming back is meaningful too.
*** Who are the Samaritans?
They are from the ancient Promised Land of Israel (the northern part) and Judah (the southern part). Jerusalem (and the Temple) are in the southern part. Thus, the southern part is regarded as legitimate and faithful. The North, not so much, if at all.
About 800 years (722 or 721 B.C.), the ancestry and heritage of the Samaritans is disrupted. They are captured and taken off into exile by Assyria.
Eventually, they return and settle in “Israel”, i.e., in the North. The Samaritans adopt the Jewish Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). However, they are geographically and spiritually distant from the Temple. They do not follow the Temple rituals.
Thus, the Jewish people (including the Pharisees, the scribes, and Temple priests and Christ’s own disciples) would have been taught to regard them as inferior and unfaithful. ***___
[__07] But, it is this inferior one who wants to continue the relationship with Christ.
Jesus is saying, look, has no one else but this “foreigner” returned to give thanks. Has no one else but this one that we regard as not religious, not faithful, not very honest, not very virtuous … has only he returned?
Does only he believe? Apparently so.
Then, the question, where are the other nine? Where am I? Where are you?
[__08] Where is my thank-you? Is it something I have yet to write, a phone call I have yet to make?
And, is my thank you something that is given simply to complete a transaction …or because I want to continue a relationship?
Our prayer, our attendance at Sunday Mass is also an act of saying thank you, of praying our thank you to God.
To say thank you for our education, even for the homework we don’t want, to say thank you for our parents, our teachers, our classmates.
Saying thank you does not mean everything is perfect. Saying thank you does not mean you have to lie or say something dishonest or exaggerated.
But, don’t we say thank you – don’t we think it is proper to say thank you even if the gift we have received is something…
• We did not want
• Was in poor taste
• I already have one…
• I’d rather a different color
Even then, aren’t we willing to say thank you, because of the relationship, the friendship. Yes, it is the thought that counts.
[__09] Thank you is not an endpoint but a point of continuity.
Toward the end of Sunday Mass, we receive Holy Eucharist. And, the word “Eucharist” means “to show favor, to show grace, to show gratitude.”
And, the Eucharist is part of an ongoing journey , part of our journey toward eternal life with Christ, part of an ongoing thanksgiving.
And, we are called to say thank you for the gifts we receive.
The ones that are perfect and desirable; the ones that are not so perfect or desirable.
[__10] Thank you is not just a word, it is also an action. For example, giving back to help young people, to be kind to younger brothers and sisters.
Or, for those who have much to be kind to those who have less. In college, those who have less might mean those who have less … academic success than I do; or have less playing time than I do on the team; less money.
Or, for juniors and seniors to be kind to freshman and sophomores. This is also an act of thanksgiving. This is a way of saying ..
“I am so thankful for my life. I know what my life is, that it has value. And, I want to share that with you.”
[__11] And, we are called to say thank you for those who stretch us and challenge us. When we are stretched or challenged by others, we don’t want to say thank you…
For example, do I want to thank the friend who is serious when I want to joke around or vice versa.
I don’t feel thankful in such cases. I may, then, become similar to the “other nine” in the Gospel who do not return.
[__12] This is also the case of for those of us who might take care of those who are older or ill, or terminally ill.
When we take care of someone, we are also saying thank you for their lives. Consider that all of us here might some day have to do this for our mothers or fathers …or spouses …or children.
** The act of thanksgiving takes effort. For example, consider the effort of an author who has finished his or her book, now is called to write that section, that long section sometimes, of Acknowledgements, of gratitude, to identify all those who contributed to his or her work.
It takes effort for the leper to turn around and come back.
It might have been easier for him to imagine that he was healed because he was …
• Eating right
• Running on the treadmill
• Has a superior body type
But, the leper does not attribute his health to these practices.
And, we might consider this. As hard as we work, it is not only our own effort that makes things right or possible, but also God’s grace and will.
Thank you is expressed not by what we say but by what we do. We can do this each night, to acknowledge to pray…
And, we then affirm, by saying thank you that our faith has saved us. [_end_]