The Importance of Gratitude

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4)

Pride is is the greatest obstacle to holiness faced by and women. The practice of humility is its chief antidote.

St. Teresa of Avila taught in her spiritual masterpiece, Interior Castle, that it is our mission on earth to seek spiritual union with God who dwells in the inmost mansion of our soul. A soul who has been forgiven its sin enters this journey through prayer and cannot advance without the practice of humility.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesian 2:10)

As we advance in the spiritual life, our focus must be directed outward towards God and in service to those he places in our path. By thinking more of others than we do of ourselves, living the sacramental life, we will attain the end for which we are made — Heaven. This is a gift from God; his freely-given grace which makes it possible through faith to preform those works he has prepared for us.

Jesus Christ taught us the way to holiness is humility by the way he lived — the example he showed when he “but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (see Philippians 2:7).

Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:17-19)

Today’s gospel passage (Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C) relates the encounter of ten lepers with Jesus. From a distance, they asked him for mercy and healing. As with all spiritual journeys, this is the beginning — seeking mercy. They asked and they received the free, undeserved gift of God’s mercy and healing. He sent them to present themselves to the priests, and on the way, they noticed they had been healed. Only one of the ten returned to give thanks to Jesus who healed them.

Why is thanksgiving so important? Because humility is essential to spiritual progress. Humility is essential if we are to become what the Lord created us to be. Virtues do not live on their own in isolation from each other. Humility is cultivated love of others, self-denial, self-awareness and service to others. It is especially strengthened by generosity and gratitude.

The necessity of gratitude is so great that the principal act of public worship in the Church is the thank offering we celebrate each day and especially on Sundays — the Eucharist — the holy sacrifice of thanksgiving we call the Mass.

At every Mass, we come together as God’s family — the Church — and offer the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit our sincere and unreserved thanks for his gifts and blessings he showers upon us.

We are like the lepers the Lord healed. Let’s make sure we never tire of giving our Father thanks for this great gift of new life in Christ. The more we give thanks, the more we will be transformed in the Spirit.

Image credit: “The Healing of the Ten Lepers (detail) | James Tissot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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