The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
13 October 2013
Lord, we pray thee that thy grace may always precede and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Ruth 1:(1-7) 8-19a
2 Timothy 2:(3-7) 8-15
A couple of weeks ago I talked with you about our deep spiritual connection with God, with Love in the here and now. I reminded us that in the occasions of this world, in our encounters with the world’s creatures and nature itself, especially in relationships with our brothers and sisters who share our common humanity, we find real connection to the divine. Into these moments, these encounters, these relationships, the Love of God is made incarnate. The story of the encounter of the ten lepers with the very love of God at work in the world and of the Samaritan who remembered to praise God and offer his thanks to Jesus gives us a way of understanding these ideas in action. It gives us a way of seeing what our response should be to being loved by God in and through the occasions of the world—in this case the healing touch of Jesus in a particular moment.
This story shows how we can and should respond to the love we receive, how we should orient our lives to this reality. Our first response is our faith—our living relationship with Love. Indeed, Jesus commends the Samaritan for his faith, saying that this is what has made him well. We, like that Samaritan, already have the faith of Christ, the relationship Jesus had and that the Cosmic Christ has with the Father. We have a relationship with God that is unbreakable and that changes us into divine lovers abroad in the world. Our first response, then, is to live into this relationship. We are called to live into our identity as divine lovers at one with God. We are called to act bravely in the world as if nothing mattered more than Love, than fellow-feeling with our brothers and sisters in the body, in the flesh, with all the creatures that share the earth with us, with the creation in and through which we find the creator, and even with the cosmos itself. We are to act in the world as if this were the highest calling possible, in whatever area of human endeavour we are called to undertake.
Our second response, which encompasses the attitude with which we engage in the works of Love, is thanksgiving. This is what the Samaritan also knows, this is how he seems to live. We are to act in all things with a heart full of thanksgiving, of gratitude for the love we have received. This is the Eucharistic Life to which all Christians are called. We are called each day, each week, to remember and offer thanks for the great gifts that God has given for us. We give thanks especially for our creation in the image and likeness of God and for sending Jesus Christ to incarnate and bear his Love into that creation. We also offer thanks for the sacramental meal of bread and wine—named Eucharist, which is "thanksgiving" in Greek—in which Christ will be always present with us every time it is celebrated and that we take into our own bodies so we can be bearers of Christ’s loving body into the world. These gifts give us the power to incarnate divine Love into the world ourselves, the power to receive and share the very Love of God, give us the power to become divine lovers.
A life of thanksgiving helps us to eschew the sin of pride and embrace true humility in acknowledging our connectedness with all that is. It helps us recognise our interdependence and see that we live lives that are deeply imbedded in the lives of others. Acknowledging this interconnected life is central to a life of gratitude. We think we need not say a simple “thank you” when we believe that the person who shared something with us, our love-bearer, does not matter as much as we do, that what was given was simply our due, or because we simply take people and our relationships for granted. It is when we think that what matters only is that which we receive, not that which we have been given or by whom. We only think we need not say “thank you” when we think that we are acting in this life as sole agents, that it is only our narrow self interest that matters.
We are called to lives of constant thanksgiving not because we need to be reminded of how small we are, or because we believe ourselves to be dependant in a negative way, but because it is the response of a heart full of Love. If our hearts are filled with Love, then we are overflowing with Love and gratitude to those who have been bearers of love to and for us. Our Love, the love of God we have experienced in the world, in this community, in small ways every day to which we are sometimes—often even—blind, should impel our grateful response and empower the outpouring of Love upon those others who might, in turn, offer thanks for what they have received.
A life of thanksgiving has cosmic dimensions in that it encompasses the past, the present, and the future. We give thanks for that which we have received, we give thanks in the present for our lives and love in this moment, and we give thanks for the future we know is ahead of us. All of time is encompassed by the underlying, steadfast Love of God that is our past, our present, and our future. This is the eternal, eschatological quality of the Eucharistic life. It embodies the notion that the Kingdom of God is both at hand and not yet completed; that the Kingdom of God is part of our past, our present, and our future; that atonement—union in Love—with the source of all that is and was and ever shall be, the very Love of God, is something we have tasted, are tasting, and will, in the fulness of time be our heavenly banquet.
We are called to lives full of thanksgiving, nourishing ourselves with the Eucharistic sacrifice within the life of our gathered community so that we are always reminded of what has been done for us, what God is accomplishing in us right now, and of the brilliant future, the Love filled future that is our inheritance and the inheritance of our children. The Eucharistic life gives us hope to keep at the work of love even when we might be discouraged. Love endures for it is God’s nature, God’s essence, God’s purpose. Our life of praise and thanksgiving matters. It matters to God and makes a difference in the lives of those we encounter. It makes a difference to the world.
The acts of receiving and sharing the Love of God in and through our earthly existence are powerful. They are at the centre of the life to which we are called as sons and daughters of God, to which we are called as Christians in and through the water of Baptism [into which Grant will soon enter], to which we are called as regular participants in the sacrament of the Eucharist, the very sacrament of praise and thanksgiving. Like the Samaritan, we are called to seek the healing, nourishing Love of God as we make our journey in and through the creation. We are to keep in the faith of Christ, knowing that this loving power is real and present, it is near and accessible to us. Like the Samaritan we are called to offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for all that God gives us, for this faithful life in Love. Practising this Eucharistic life will help us to live fully into the life of unbounded Love to which God calls us now in this moment and as we move into the age to come.
Andrew C. Blume✠
New York City
Feria, 5 October 2013
© 2013 Andrew Charles Blume