Give Thanks to God
Books of the Bible Index of Homilies
Matthew Mark Luke John The Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes The Song of Songs The Book of Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
On this Sunday, the Church, looks forward to the joy of Christmas, and that is why it is called “Gaudete Sunday”. In this season, a time of preparation for Christmas, we wear dark vestments, but today they are pink for the blossoming of Christmas joy. And the joy of Christmas is a special joy; but it is a joy that isn’t just for the day of Christmas, it is for the entire life of a Christian. It is a serene and tranquil joy, a joy that forever accompanies the Christian. Even in difficult moments, in moments of difficulty, this joy becomes peace. When he is a true Christian, the Christian never loses his peace, even in suffering. That peace is a gift from the Lord. Christian joy is a gift from the Lord. “Ah, Father, we’ll have a nice big luncheon, everybody will be happy”. This is lovely, a nice luncheon is good; but this isn’t the Christian joy we are talking about today. Christian joy is something else. It brings us together to celebrate, it’s true. Thus the Church wants you to understand what Christian joy is.
The Apostle St Paul says to the Thessalonians: “Brothers, rejoice always”. And how can I rejoice? He says: “pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances”. We find our Christian joy in prayer, it comes from prayer and from giving thanks to God: “Thank you, Lord, for so many beautiful things!”. But there are those who don’t know how to give thanks to God; they are always looking for something to lament about. I knew a sister — far from here! — this sister was a good woman, she worked... but her life was about lamenting, complaining about so many things that happened.... You see, in the convent they called her “Sr Lamenta”. But a Christian cannot live like this, always looking for something to complain about: “That person has something I don't have.... Did you see what just happened?...”. This is not Christian! And it is harmful to find Christians with embittered faces, with a face wry with bitterness, not in peace. Never, never was there a saint with a mournful face, never! Saints always have joy in their faces. Or at least, amid suffering, a face of peace. The greatest suffering, the martyrdom of Jesus: He always had peace in his face and was concerned about others: his mother, John, the thief... his concern was for others.
To have this Christian joy, first, is prayer; second, to give thanks. And what do I do to give thanks? Reflect on your life and think of the many good things that life has given you: so many. “But, Father, it’s true, but I have also received so many bad things!” — “Yes, it’s true, it happens to us all. But think of the good things” — “I have a Christian family, Christian parents, thank God I have a job, my family is not suffering of hunger, we are all healthy...”. I don’t know, so many things, and give thanks to the Lord for this. This accustoms us to joy. Pray, give thanks....
And then, the First Reading suggests another dimension that will help us to have joy. It is to bring others the Good News: We are Christians. “Christian” comes from “Christ”, and “Christ” means “anointed”. And we too are “anointed”. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord consecrated me with unction. We are anointed: Christians mean “anointed ones”. And why are we anointed? To do what? “He sent me to bring the good news” to whom? “To the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (cf. Is 61:1-2). This is the vocation of Christ and the vocation of Christians as well. To go to others, to those in need, whether their needs be material or spiritual.... Many people who suffer anxiety because of family problems.... To bring peace there, to bring the unction of Jesus, the oil of Jesus which does so much good and consoles souls.
Therefore, in order to have this joy in preparation for Christmas, first, pray: “Lord, let me live this Christmas with true joy”. Not with the joy of consumerism that leads me to 24 December with anxiety, because “ah, I’m missing this, I’m missing that...”. No, this is not the joy of God. Prayer. Second: give thanks to the Lord for the good things he has given us. Third, think of how we can go to others, to those in difficulty and with problems — let us think of the sick, of so many problems — to bring a little unction, peace, joy. This is the joy of the Christian. Agreed? We have 15 days left, a little less: 13 days. In these days, let us pray. But do not forget: let us pray, asking for the joy of Christmas. Let us give thanks to God for the good things that he has given us, above all the faith. This is a wonderful grace. Third, let us think where I can go to bring a little relief, a little peace, to those who suffer. Pray, give thanks and help others. And like this we will arrive at the Birth of the Anointed One, the Christ, as ones anointed in grace, prayer and acts of grace and help towards others.
May Our Lady accompany us on this path towards Christmas. And let there be joy, joy!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In recent Sundays the liturgy has emphasized what it means to assume an attitude of vigilance and what preparing the way of the Lord entails, concretely. On this Third Sunday of Advent, called the “Sunday of Joy”, the liturgy invites us to welcome the spirit with which all this happens, that is, precisely, joy. Saint Paul invites us to prepare for the coming of the Lord, by assuming three attitudes. Listen carefully: three attitudes. First, constant joy; second, steadfast prayer; third, continuous thanksgiving. Constant joy, steadfast prayer and continuous thanksgiving.
The first attitude, constant joy: “Rejoice always” (1 Thess 5:16), Saint Paul says. This means always being joyful, even when things do not go according to our wishes; but there is that profound joy, which is peace: that too is joy; it is within. And peace is a joy “at the ground level”, but it is a joy. Distress, difficulties and suffering pass through each person’s life, we are all familiar with them; and so often the reality that surrounds us seems to be inhospitable and barren, similar to the desert in which the voice of John the Baptist resonated, as today’s Gospel passage recalls (cf. Jn 1:23). But the very words of the Baptist reveal that our joy rests on a certainty, that this desert is inhabited: “among you” — he says — “stands one whom you do not know” (v. 26). It refers to Jesus, the Father’s envoy who comes, as Isaiah stresses, “to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (61:1-2). These words, which Jesus will speak in his discourse at the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk 4:16-19), clarify that his mission in the world consists in the liberation from sin and from the personal and social slavery that it produces. He has come to the earth to restore to mankind the dignity and freedom of the Children of God — which only he can communicate — and thereby to give joy.
The joy which characterizes the awaiting of the Messiah is based on steadfast prayer: this is the second attitude. Saint Paul says: “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17). By praying we can enter a stable relationship with God, who is the source of true joy. A Christian’s joy is not bought; it cannot be bought. It comes from faith and from the encounter with Jesus Christ, the reason for our happiness. And when we are rooted in Christ, the closer we are to Jesus, the more we find inner peace, even among everyday contradictions. For this reason a Christian, having encountered Jesus, cannot be a prophet of misfortune, but a witness and herald of joy. A joy to share with others; an infectious joy that renders the journey of life less toilsome.
The third attitude Paul points to is continuous thanksgiving, which is grateful love towards God. Indeed, he is very generous to us, and we are invited to always recognize his beneficence, his merciful love, his patience and goodness, thus living in unceasing thanksgiving.
Joy, prayer and gratitude are three attitudes that prepare us to experience Christmas in an authentic way. Joy, prayer and gratitude. Everyone together, let us say: joy, prayer and gratitude. [The people repeat.] Once again! [The people repeat.] In this last period of the Season of Advent, let us entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary. She is a “cause of our joy”, not only because she begot Jesus, but because she keeps directing us to him.
As Jesus was walking along, ten lepers met him and cried out: “Have mercy on us!” (Lk 17:13). All ten were healed, yet only one of them returned to thank Jesus. He was a Samaritan, a kind of heretic for the Jewish people. At the beginning, they were walking together, but then the Samaritan left the others and turned back, “praising God with a loud voice” (v. 15). Let us stop and reflect on these two aspects of today’s Gospel: walking together and giving thanks.
First, walking together. At the beginning of the account, there is no difference between the Samaritan and the other nine. We only hear that they are lepers, who together, as a group, approach Jesus. Leprosy, as we know, was not only a physical affliction, one which even today we must make every effort to eliminate, but also a “social disease”, since in those days, for fear of contagion, lepers had to remain apart from the community (cf. Lev 13:46). Hence, they could not enter villages; they were kept at a distance, isolated and relegated to the margins of social and even religious life. By walking together, these lepers indicted a society that excluded them. We should also note that the Samaritan, although considered a heretic, “a foreigner”, is part of their group. Brothers and sisters, whenever disease and fragility are shared, barriers fall and exclusion is overcome.
This image is also meaningful for us: when we are honest with ourselves, we realize that we are all sick at heart, all sinners in need of the Father’s mercy. Then we stop creating divisions on the basis of merit, social position or some other superficial criterion; our interior barriers and prejudices likewise fall. In the end, we realize once more that we are brothers and sisters. Even Naaman the Syrian, as the first reading reminded us, for all his wealth and power, could only be healed by doing something simple: wash in the river in which everyone else was bathing. First of all, he had to remove his armour and his robes (cf. 2 Kings 5). We would do well to set aside our own outer armour, our defensive barriers, and take a good bath of humility, mindful that all of us are vulnerable within and in need of healing. All of us are brothers and sisters. Let us remember this: the Christian faith always asks us to walk alongside others, never to be solitary wayfarers. Faith always urges us to move beyond ourselves and towards God and our brothers and sisters, never to remain enclosed within ourselves. Faith invites us to acknowledge constantly that we are in need of healing and forgiveness, and to share in the frailty of those who are near to us, without feeling ourselves superior.
Brothers and sisters, let us reflect and see if in our lives, in our families, in the places where we daily work and spend our time, we are capable of walking together with others, listening to them, resisting the temptation to lock ourselves up in self-absorption and to think only of our own needs. To walk together – to be “synodal” – is also the vocation of the Church. Let us ask ourselves if we are really communities truly open and inclusive of all; if we cooperate, as priests and laity, in the service of the Gospel; and if we show ourselves welcoming, not only in words but with concrete gestures, to those both near and far, and all those buffeted by the ups and downs of life. Do we make them feel a part of the community? Or do we exclude them? I am troubled when I see Christian communities that divide the world into the good and the bad, saints and sinners: this makes them feel superior to others and exclude so many people that God wants to embrace. Please, always be inclusive: in the Church and in society, which is still marred by many forms of inequality and marginalization. Always be inclusive. Today, the day in which Bishop Scalabrini becomes a saint, I think of emigrants. The exclusion of emigrants is scandalous. Actually, the exclusion of emigrants is criminal. They are dying right in front of us, as the Mediterranean is the largest cemetery in the world. The exclusion of emigrants is revolting, sinful and criminal. Not opening doors to those in need – “No, we do not exclude them, we send them away” to camps, where they are exploited and sold like slaves. Brothers and sisters, today let us call to mind these emigrants, especially those who are dying. And those who are able to enter, do we welcome them as brothers and sisters or do we exploit them? I simply pose the question.
The second thing is giving thanks. In the group of the ten lepers, there was only one who, realizing that he was cured, turned back to praise God and to show gratitude to Jesus. The other nine were healed, but then went their own way, forgetting the one who had healed them. They forgot the graces given to them by God. The Samaritan, on the other hand, makes the gift he received the first step of a new journey: he returns to the one who healed him; he goes back to Jesus in order to know him better; he enters into a relationship with the Lord. His grateful attitude, then, is no mere act of courtesy, but the start of a journey of thanksgiving: he falls at Jesus’ feet (cf. Lk 17:16) and worships him. He recognizes that Jesus is the Lord, that Jesus is more important than the healing he received.
This is a great lesson also for us, brothers and sisters, who daily benefit from the gifts of God, yet so often go our own way, failing to cultivate a living and real relationship with him. This is a nasty spiritual disease: we take everything for granted, including faith, including our relationship with God, to the point where we become Christians no longer able to be amazed or to give thanks, lacking in gratitude and incapable of seeing the wonders of the Lord. A woman I know used to say, “They are rose-water Christians”. We end up thinking that all the gifts we receive each day are natural and due to us. Gratitude, the ability to give thanks, makes us appreciate instead the presence in our lives of the God who is love. And to recognize the importance of others, overcoming the dissatisfaction and indifference that disfigure our hearts. It is essential to know how to say “thank you”. To thank the Lord each day and to thank one another. In our families, for the little gifts we receive daily and so often do not even think about. In the places we spend our days, for the many services which we enjoy and for all those people who support us. In our Christian communities, for the love of God that we experience in the closeness of our brothers and sisters who, often silently, pray, sacrifice, suffer and journey with us. So please, let us not forget to say these key words: thank you!
The two saints canonized today remind us of the importance of walking together and being able to give thanks. Bishop Scalabrini, who founded two Congregations – one male and one female – for the care of emigrants, used to say that in the shared journeying of emigrants we should see not only problems, but also a providential plan. In his words: “Precisely because of the migrations imposed by persecutions, the Church pressed beyond the confines of Jerusalem and of Israel, and became ‘catholic’; thanks to the migrations of our own days, the Church will be an instrument of peace and of communion among peoples” (L’emigrazione degli operai italiani, Ferrara, 1899). The emigration currently taking place in Europe is causing great suffering and forcing us to open our hearts – that is the emigration of Ukrainians who are fleeing from war. Let us not forget the beleaguered Ukrainian emigrants. With great vision, Scalabrini looked forward to a world and a Church without barriers, where no one was a foreigner. For his part, the Salesian Brother Artemide Zatti – with his bicycle - was a living example of gratitude. Cured of tuberculosis, he devoted his entire life to serving others, caring for the infirm with tender love. He was said to have carried on his shoulders the dead body of one of his patients. Filled with gratitude for all that he had received, he wanted to say his own “thank you” by taking upon himself the wounds of others.
Let us pray that these Saints, our brothers, may help us to walk together, without walls of division; and to cultivate that nobility of soul, so pleasing to God, which is gratitude.