Friday, June 26, 2015

Trust and Be Grateful

By Colleen O’Sullivan

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said:  “I am God the Almighty.   Walk in my presence and be blameless.”  God further said to Abraham; “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai; her name shall be Sarah.  I will bless her, and I will give you a son by her.  Him also will I bless; he shall give rise to nations, and rulers of peoples shall issue from him.”  Abraham prostrated himself and laughed as he said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?  Or can Sarah give birth at ninety?”  Then Abraham said to God, “Let but Ishmael live on by your favor!”   (Genesis 17:1, 15-18)

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.  And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”  He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it.  Be made clean.”  His leprosy was cleansed immediately. (Matthew 8:1-3)

“Although others may think otherwise, whenever I think of the Divine Goodness, it seems to me that ingratitude is the most abominable of sins – that any creature capable of enjoying His divine and everlasting glory should detest it in the sight of our Creator and Lord.  After all, it is a forgetting of the graces, the benefits, and the blessings received.  As such it is the cause, the beginning, the origin of all sins and every misfortune.”  (from Spiritual Wisdom in the Letters of Ignatius Loyola)

Picture someone you love very much or someone whom you care for very deeply.  Imagine that you want to give that person a gift.  Not the ordinary, expected Christmas or birthday present.  Something very special, something you think will delight him or will let her know how much you think of her.  You spend a great deal of time coming up with just the right thing.  And then you present the gift.  The person opens it, and instead of “oohing” and “aahing,” they begin to laugh at what you offered and tell you what they would rather have had instead.

I’d be so disappointed and hurt if that happened.  I don’t know what your mothers told you about receiving gifts, but my mother always said to be grateful that someone thought enough of you to give you something.  Don’t focus on the gift itself and whether or not it’s what you would have picked out.

Somebody should have mentioned that to Abraham.  Here’s the Almighty God making a covenant with him.  God’s going to give Abraham a son by his childless wife, a son whose descendants will give rise to nations and rulers.  Is Abraham grateful?  Is he even the tiniest bit impressed?  No.  He makes a show of prostrating himself, all the while laughing at how ridiculous God sounds.  He and Sarah are old; they’ll never have a child now.  He shows absolutely no trust in God’s ability to change his life.  Abraham then digs himself a little deeper.  Not only does he not say thank you, he tells God what he’d rather have – something for Ishmael, his son by his wife’s servant.

In today’s Gospel reading, we meet just the opposite type of person.  He isn’t filled with self-importance.  He’s a leper, the scum of society.  In fact, being a leper means he has to exist outside of society.  He’s allowed contact with no one but other lepers.  His existence is a tenuous and lonely one.  But he sees power in Jesus.  And he tells the Lord that he knows Jesus can heal him, if Jesus desires to.  He has faith.  And Jesus touches him and restores him to wholeness.  We don’t know if he thanked Jesus in so many words, but what a contrast to Abraham in our first reading!  This leper made no demands, simply trusted that Jesus could cure him if Jesus wanted to. 

The best way I know to become more grateful is to review your day with Jesus in prayer.  Note the good gifts over the past 24 hours, no matter how small.  If you pray this way day after day, you will find it increasingly difficult over time to see yourself as anything but a loved and very blessed child of God. 

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