2 Kings 5:14-17
2 Timothy 2:8-13
In the first reading today, Namaan is so grateful for his healing that he takes mule-loads of dirt back to his home so he can worship God on holy ground. This contrasts to the Gospel, in which 9 out of 10 lepers take their healing so for granted that they fail to even say "Thank you". I suspect most of us read these stories and believe that if something wonderful happened in our lives, we would surely be among the grateful ones. Would we? In fact, are we?
How many wonderful things have happened in my life today that I failed to even notice, much less be thankful for? Have I stopped noticing blue sky, trees, or the remarkable creation that frames my day? Do I "deserve" my talents or all the good things in my life? When I think of the people I love, how often in the course of a week do I speak words of appreciation or praise vs. criticism or frustration? Perhaps I need a load full of Namaan’s dirt sitting in my living room to remind me to return to the giver of all good gifts overwhelmed with gratitude and singing "Thank you".
I think particularly of my experience working with grieving people for well over 20 years. Inevitably they say things like:
"If I had known it would be the last time I’d see her, I would have given her a hug."
"We argued so much that I started to think I’d be relieved if he weren’t there. How could I be so blind?"
"If I had to do it over again, I would have listened to her more, and been less stubborn in holding onto my own positions."
"He was such a good man. Why did I criticize him instead of thanking him every morning and night?"
The truth is, in over 20 years, I have never heard anyone say "I told her I loved her too often," or "I appreciated him too much." For whom are you thankful? How big a wake-up call will it take before you tell them so?
The night my husband died in a car accident, he called me from the road and we talked for a few minutes. The last thing he said to me was "I love you" and the last thing I said to him was "I love you, too." I try now to ensure that the last words people hear from me before we part are kind and loving, just in case they are the last words they ever hear from me. (I’ve even said to my son, "I am so angry with you right now I could spit, but even when I am this angry with you, I still love you!") I want to live my life thankful, aware that nothing I own, nothing I count on, and no one I love is truly mine. I am not in control, and any or all of it could disappear tomorrow, so I want to appreciate what I have while I have it.
May I, like Namaan, fall to my knees on holy ground every day, thanking God and those I love for the many gifts they bring to my life.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.