A Grateful Heart
28th Sunday of the Year (C)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

A missionary who just arrived from her assignment outside the country was telling me about differences in culture. The missionary was bringing with her certain cultural expectations from her own culture. In the culture where she was transplanted, she felt disappointed at first that people did not say "Thank you". Later on she realized that they had another way of expressing their gratefulness. In one instance when she gave something that she knew was badly needed by her neighbor, the man just turned around after getting it and did not say a word. The next morning however, the same man was working in her garden. It was his way of saying thank you.

Action starter: Identify your greatest gift in life.

Different place have different customs. Many cultures have words for "thank you".In other cultures they show their gratitude with actions instead of words. In Filipino culture, we value the importance of "debt of gratitude". A person is perpetually in debt to somebody who has done him a favor. One of our worst insults is to tell somebody that he has no sense of gratitude and therefore has no shame - "walang utang na loob, walang hiya". Sometimes, this debt is paid in a disproportionate way, such as committing a crime in payment for one's debt. I remember twenty years ago whe I was a parish priest, one man whose sick child I brought to the hospital, came to me and expressed his deep gratitude. In return, he told me that he is willing to kill anybody upon my orders.

The Gospel this Sundays tells the story of the lepers who were healed by the Lord (Lk 17:11-19). Only one came back and he was a Samaritan. Jesus commended him for acknowledging the gift he received and giving thanks to God.

Are we grateful people? We can only be grateful if we realize that we are recipients of gifts or favors. Some people do not like to receive favors or gifts. They are self-sufficient and do not want to be indebted to anybody. Perhaps, they are also proud. Othe people always ask for gifts and favors to the point that they are avoided by their friends and acquaintances. They have become free-loaders. Some people are happy in being givers. Others are happier being receivers.

The author Covey wrote about stages of growth in life. We start in childhood as dependents. When we reach adolescence and young adulthood we strive to be independent. As we grow into maturity we realize that we cannot be an isolated island. We learn that as members of society we are interdependent. In an interdependent setting we give and we receive. Sometimes we are in the giving end. Other times we are in the receiving end.

Such stages of development can also be applied to our spiritual growth. We learn to pray by asking God for favors. Jesus Himself taught us to ask and knock. As we grow older, we might pass through a stage when we do not like God to have anything to do with us. We like to be independent of His commands. We want to be free of Him. As we grow more mature we recognize that God calls us to be His partners-in-mission. God needs our hands in order to give abundant life to this world.

Later on as our friendship with God deepens, we finally arrive at the insight that everything really comes from God, including our hands, hearts, minds, strength, talents, and loved ones. Joys and pains are both recognized as God's gifts -- ways by which we grow as friends and disciples.

In that ultimate stage we become eternally grateful.