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11.23.17: Gratitude for life's gifts

Homily from the 9 a.m. Thanksgiving Day Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Crown Point, Ind.

We have so much to be grateful for.

So many of our young people took the time to write out what they’re thankful for.

And we have our gratitude book, and I encourage you to take a moment after our celebration this morning and come up and write what you’re thankful for this year.

Last night, I was here praying and what came up for me was how grateful I am for all the Tinas in my life.

You see, for the past six years, I’ve received a card from Tina for every secular holiday.

Halloween … Easter

Admittedly, I didn’t get Tina at first. Halloween came, and here was this random card. Thanksgiving, then at Christmas, sent one back.

At Valentine’s Day, after I explained to my brother seminarians why a woman named Tina was sending me bright pink Valentine’s cards, I decided to write Tina a letter.

Thus began a great life-giving relationship. Every holiday, I write Tina a letter, sharing all the wonderful things going on in my journey, and a lot of the struggles. I ask her to pray for me and I let her know I’m praying for her.

The next holiday, she always sends another card, with just her simple signature.

If Tina was here right now, I wouldn’t recognize her. We’ve never met. Aside from her address, I really don’t know anything about her. Well, I know one thing about her. She does small things with great love.

Who are the Tinas in your life? Who are those people that God has decided to put on your path to offer love, encouragement and support without asking for anything in return.

Those people are Christ for you.

They give the gift of themselves, as pure gift, just as Christ gives of himself in our Gospel today.

Here are these 10 lepers. Diseased. Unclean. Unworthy. Yet, they seek an encounter with Jesus. They believe he can heal them. He doesn’t care about what separates them from society, what makes them the undesirables. He reaches out to them and sends them on their way, healed, renewed. He doesn’t expect anything in return. But one comes back, a foreigner, the one least likely to and in gratitude, falls at the feet of Jesus, thanking him for a new lease on life.

We’re called to reach out to others, in compassion, in care, in mercy. Seeking no recognition. Seeking no thanks. As pure self-gift in gratitude, in thanksgiving, grateful for the blessings, the gifts, the life God has given us and the souls he has placed along our paths.

We do what we do because we love God, and, to quote someone who stood here for a long, long time: because that’s what neighbors do.

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