Not sure if you have seen it or not, but there’s a recent commercial on TV that depicts a bunch of hipster people walking through downtown city streets looking at their smart phones or tablets and the narrator says something like, “…we all love our gadgets…until we see a better one…”, and at that point in the narration all the people who have been glued to their screens somehow get a sense that better technology is near them and they look up in time to see other really cool hipsters walking by with more advanced technology then they have and they look disappointed or eagerly envious. I think this commercial speaks volumes about our inability to be satisfied or content with the things we have. It seems like we never have enough.
But if we spend our lives always looking to what we don’t have, then we will surely miss all that we do have. The reality about this life is that at any given moment, there is always someone better off than us. Someone else makes more money, has a better house, makes better grades, throws a ball longer and more accurate, cleans their house better, parents better, sings better, acts better, never seems to be unhealthy, has more friends, has a better marriage, has survived a tragedy, etc. But you know what? The other reality in life is that at any given moment there is always someone worse off than us – someone sicker, messier, poorer, experiencing more tragedy, living in a crappy marriage, who has no friends, etc.
One of the secrets to happiness in life is being content with what we have or where we are at any given moment instead of focusing on what we don’t have or what we want. Another is living for others and not for ourselves. The only way we can be content and focus on others’ needs is to live a life of gratitude.
This is the lesson to be learned from today’s Gospel account. The ten lepers were so excited about “what was to come”—going to the priest to be officially certified as “clean” (see Leviticus 14)—that they were missing the reality of what had already happened in the present. Well, except for the one.
We need to be more grateful. Think about it: Thanksgiving is the one day that Americans are invited to spend the whole day with family and friends, grateful for all the blessings in their lives, and yet we spend it looking through advertising flyers so we can go out that night and the next day to buy all the new stuff we “need”. I know that much of what people buy is for others, but the point is still the same: we can’t even spend one day in our country giving thanks for what we already have without looking ahead to what we don’t have.
This can happen in our spiritual lives as well. We get frustrated that we aren’t as “holy” as we’d like. We beat ourselves up for our repeated sins. We get angry with God for not healing someone we love, or for not stopping this bad thing or that bad thing from happening. We can even think that God is AWOL at Mass or Adoration because we don’t feel His Presence. In some circumstances we become convinced that God has forgotten about us or doesn’t listen to our prayers; perhaps He has more important matters to attend to in the world.
And yet, anytime we encounter Jesus there is action, because He is love and love is a verb. In times of prayer, when doing service, at Adoration or Mass—we are being affected, molded, healed and changed as His grace washes over us, whether we feel it or not. He is ALWAYS giving, inviting, initiating.
I know we’d all like to think that had we been part of the encounter with Jesus recalled in today’s Gospel we would’ve been that one grateful leper, but if we are honest with ourselves, perhaps we are more like the other nine. Through His grace may we become more like the one—a people with grateful hearts!