On Gratitude (with thanks to St. Nicholai Velimirovich)
Luke 17: 12-19 (The Ten Lepers, only one of whom returned)

[Started with a meditation on the virtues of hard work and gratitude; hard work so that we can be proud of what we have done and foster an appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into the making and sustaining of things. This makes us grateful for what we have, and especially the amount of effort that goes into gifts that we receive from others. But what if these virtues break down? What if there was a society where hard work was not required and gratitude was neither expected nor offered? What if everything was both easy and taken for granted? Would this be a society comprised of real men and women, or of spoiled children? Would those who understood the need for virtue – and who cultivated it within their own lives – [would they] not weep when they saw the corruption that surrounded them?]

We are taught through small things, not always being able to understand big ones.

  • If we cannot understand how our souls cannot live for a moment without God, we can see how our bodies cannot live for a moment without air.
  • If we cannot understand how we suffer a spiritual death when we go without prayer and the doing of good deeds, we can see how we suffer and die when we go without water and food.
  • If we cannot understand why it is that God expects our obedience, we can study why it is that commanders expect obedience from their soldiers and why architects expect it from their builders.

So it is with gratitude. If we do not understand why it is that God seeks our gratitude – and why He seeks it in both thought and action – we can look at why parents demand gratitude from their children.

  • We do parents require that their children thank them for everything, both large and small, that they receive from their parents?
    • Are parents enriched by the gratitude of their children?
    • Are they made more powerful?
    • Is it to feed their egos?
    • Does it give them more influence or status in society?
  • No, parents are not enriched by their children’s gratitude, and it takes time and effort to cultivate it in them. So parents spend time and effort on something that brings them no personal enrichment. Why do they do it?
    • They do it for love. They do it for the good of their children, so that they will grow up to be civilized and a benefit to society and their own families.
    • “A grateful man is valued wherever he goes; he is liked, he is welcomed, and he people are quick to help him.”

What would happen if parents stopped teaching their children gratitude? How would their children turn out? How would society turn out? Isn’t it every parent’s obligation, then to demand gratitude from their children?

And so it is with God. He does not need our thanks. There is no way to add to His infinite power. There is no way to add to his glory. He in no way benefits from the thanks that we give Him.

  • And yet He demands that we thank Him every morning for getting us through the night.
  • And yet He demands that we thank Him at every meal for the food on our tables.
  • And yet He demands that we thank Him that we thank Him every Sunday for the gift of His Son.

It seems like a lot, right? Couldn’t we just skip it? No. Not if we want to be human. Not if we want to be good.

  • It isn’t just about doing things to please God (He is what He is regardless of our actions),
  • and it isn’t really about doing things because we need to follow God’s rules.
  • It is about being (and becoming) good and doing what is right.

God desires that we be His children, through Christ, He has made this possible. Through our baptism and through our confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, we can join the ranks of the saints. This is not something to be taken for granted.

  • We are like the lepers who encountered Christ in today’s Gospel
    • Because of our disease, we are not fit to join the the saints and angels of God.
    • But Jesus Christ has healed us of our disease. He has nailed our sins to the Cross. He has restored our fallen humanity to a state of grace.
    • This is not something we have earned, nor is it something we deserve, nor is it something that Christ had to do.
  • All ten of the lepers received the gift of health and their ability to walk once more with those who are well in a healthy community. Only one was grateful.
    • Christ God suffered and died so that all of humanity could receive the gift of healing and eternal life, and the ability to live in everlasting joy with all the saints and angels.
    • What is our response?

Are we like the spoiled child that expects everything he receives (and more), that believes that everything is his due? If so, what kind of life can we expect to have? How can it not be stunted and incomplete? What kind of families and communities can we expect to grow around us?

Or are we like the the child who grows into the virtuous adult, the one who everyone likes to have in their company, who brings out the best in those around him? If so, will our lives not be better? Will our community not thrive? Will we not have shown – through God’s grace – that we belong with the saints?

We are not worthy of the gifts that God has given us. We accept them with open arms. We offer our thanks for them. And we join the ranks of holy ones and angels that continually proclaim His glory.


Direct download: 20240121-Gratitude.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:29pm EDT