Sunday Reflection – Gratitude is the heart of Prayer

Gratitude is the heart of prayer

Luke, more than the other writers, is the evangelist of prayer. This Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 17:11-19), the story of the healing of ten lepers, instructs us on having trust in our prayer of petition and returning to God in thanksgiving.  Asking and thanking.

“Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.”  They had to shout loudly because keeping a safe distance was far longer than the two metres distancing that we experienced.  These pitiful outcasts may have been distant physically, but they were spiritually close.  Faith draws us close to God.  Jesus tested the depth of their trust because he sent them to the priests to have their healing authenticated, ever before there were any signs of healing.  The first biography of Saint Solanus Casey was entitled “Thank God ahead of Time”, as this was the advice that he gave to people who came to him for a blessing.  Trust strongly that God will answer your prayer.

Let us give thanks to the Lord

The story then advances to the prayer of gratitude.  Luke’s Gospel tells of the acts of God and the inner reactions of people.  Notice how the Gospel doesn’t simply say that the leper was cured.  The emphasis was on finding himself cured.  Gratitude, which has been described as the heart of prayer, begins in discovering our gifts and blessings.  After finding himself cured, the Samaritan leper was moved to turn back, praising God at the top of his voice and throwing himself at the feet of Jesus to thank him.  Praise is more about the giver while thanks is more about the gift.  First, discover the gifts you have received.  Then turn back in praise and thanksgiving.

The greatest prayer of praise and thanksgiving is the Mass

The greatest prayer of praise and gratitude is the celebration of the Eucharist.  It is interesting that what our translation calls thanks, in the original Greek text the word “eucharistón” is used.   Coming to the celebration of the Eucharist should not depend on how we feel or what we get from it.  We begin to celebrate the Eucharist when we become aware of the gifts of God in the saving work of Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection.  The Eucharistic Prayer begins with an invitation: “Lift up your hearts.  Let us give thanks to God.  It is right and fitting”.  And it closes with the doxology: “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, all glory and honour is yours, forever and ever.  Amen.”

Where are the other nine?

Was Jesus disappointed when only one of the ten who were cured came back to thank him.  One out of ten.  Is that my average score in showing appreciation to God or people.  One word of appreciation will help me to preach next Sunday whereas any criticism will make it harder to keep going.  How many priests have dried up through lack of appreciation and encouragement?  How many marriages would flourish if partners or children make a constant effort to show gratitude?  Why not take pen to paper and list the other nine in your own life … nine favours or blessings that you have not sufficiently appreciated?  Examine conscience on your sense of gratitude.  How often do you offer affirmation or praise?

Discover your blessings

It’s a lovely practice at the end of each day to recall just one blessed moment:  a helpful person, beauty, wonder, music, a nice meal, birdsong, or somebody who put a smile on your face.  Sometimes your blessed moment might have come from a difficult confrontation which initially upset you, but as the day went on, you found the grace to have compassion for that difficult person.  Each night concentrate of just one blessing.  Maybe note it in your diary.  Over time, this practice of gratitude will make you more aware of God’s constant blessings.  Quoting Pope Francis: “The best way to discern if our prayer is authentic is to judge to what extent our life is being transformed by mercy” (The Joy of the Gospel, 105).

Discovering your blessings can transform you, making you less negative as a positive outlook takes over.  Gratitude is the heart of prayer and the key to happiness.

A Psalm of gratitude

O, praise the Lord, my soul: my soul, give thanks to the Lord.  Never forget all his blessings.

O Lord, my soul is filled with your joy and my heart wants to break into songs of thankfulness and praise.

I have been to the vast and powerful ocean, and before its great power, all burdens were lifted from my mind.

I gazed at the ageless mountains and found how short-lived are my problems and how brief my passing clouds.

I have gazed in wonder at the delicacy of a flower, and my life was lifted up to a higher plane of sensitivity.

How have I been so blind every day!  How have I missed your handiwork in the world all around me!  I allow myself to be swallowed up in the small world of my petty concerns and I fail to see your daily miracles of creation.

Too often my prayers have been about myself.  Forgive me, Lord, for being so wrapped up in my own concerns that I have been insensitive to the beautiful messages you send every day.

You are great and glorious from all eternity.  You are not depending on our praise.  Our praise adds nothing to your greatness but is itself your gift.

Thank you, Lord, for the wonder of my being, and the wonders of all your creation.

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