18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Exodus 16:2-4
Psalm 78:3-4, 23-24, 54
Reading II Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
Gospel John 6:24-35
The question I have for you this morning is: Are you grateful for all that God has done for you, and are you grateful for all that God has given you?
When you go to the doctor he will take your temperature by placing a thermometer under your tongue to see what your temperature is on that day. If God were to take your temperature to see how grateful you are for all that he has done for you, what do you think it would be? Most people would say, “Oh, it’s about 100. I am very grateful to God.”
God would just laugh and say, “No. You register at about 50 or below. When you pray all you to do is ask for things. You keep telling me, ‘God, I need this, and I need that, and I need it right now, not tomorrow, but today — and I need and want it.’ ”
God would respond: “What I need from you is a thank you.”
There are lots of examples about being grateful. But here is an important one for you to think about — those who are in the Special Olympics.
Some of us wish we had the perfect body, and some people think they do have a perfect body — but most do not. Those who participate in the Special Olympics are people who have hearts of gold but somehow — they are not just perfect. To stand and watch them participate in the sports events is inspirational. Mom and Dad and other people are at the event cheering them on and yelling, “Come on, you can do it. I believe in you. You can do it.”
Then all of a sudden the rest of us would have to ask, “Could I do it?”
For those participating in the Special Olympics, and it is true for the regular Olympics as well — it really comes down to God’s grace. Each one of them found a special gift, and then matured that gift. But those in the Special Olympics needed to have that extra push, and love, to hear, “We believe in you.”
And when they are given a medal they are so proud. “Look what I’ve got!” And they hold up their medals and smile because someone believed in them.
So this is what Jesus is saying to his people, “All of you want to be fed with perishable food. It comes, and it goes. You put it in, it comes out. You want more, and it comes out. You are never satisfied. I want a choice of forty drinks, I just don’t want a glass of water.”
He says, “Forming gratitude — it just takes a little effort.” For the Special Olympics, or regular Olympics and it doesn’t make any difference, you have to realize the source of who you are. It all starts with God. And God says, “If you want that thermometer to get up to 100, you need to remember that I have to be in your life, and I am the very source of everything, and gratitude has to come to me. I don’t care about all the mistakes you have made in your life. I could care less. I just want to know: Everyday, are you putting your trust in me? Because I am the bread of life.”
That’s why you and I come to Mass. That’s why we begin Mass and say, “God, it’s been a great week. I think I’ve been a little bit too proud, please forgive me.” Or, “This has been the worst week of my life and I just ask that you give me the strength to see a new week. But I know that good or bad, all I can say is —thanks for the blessings.” Or, “Even though I haven’t felt well, someone was there to take care of me. Thank you.”
It’s a gift to develop the fine art of gratitude. You don’t get it at any certain age. But if you have gratitude you will truly begin to take an interest and realize the blessings that gratitude can bring.
I remember when I gave a retreat in North St. Louis. A nun was in charge of the kitchen at that time. Her pride and joy was her garden out back and for every meal she provided gifts from her garden. And I would look at her. She was a beautiful woman. She was not twenty years old but getting on in years, but she was out there every day working in her garden. This was in the summer and there was not a weed in that garden. She manicured that garden simply because she wanted to put on the table the produce that was the very best she could give to all of those who attended her workshops and ate her meals. That’s all that she wanted.
Someone else could have said, “Sister, go to the market and sell this produce. You can make money.”
“No,” she would answer. “I am happy right here. I hope you enjoy the salad, the fresh corn, the tomatoes, the squash; whatever is fresh in the garden. I just do it for you so you will have happiness in your life.”
So when Jesus says this morning: “Do you know me? Do you trust me? Do you believe in me? Remember, I can only see what is in your heart. All the rest of that stuff is what you are creating. I listen to every heartbeat and I know that I am blessing you twenty-four seven, so please let me hear that you are grateful. Go to bed at night and say, ‘Lord, thank you. Thank you for the person you gave me to love for the rest of my life. Thank you for my children. They were a total mess today, but thank you. The people I work with drive me nuts, but I have a job. That person across the street — I pray every day that they will move and you won’t move them. And so what am I going to do? But I do realize they are nice people.’ ”
And God says, “Just remember, I am in the midst of all of that.”
So this morning, this is a celebration of gratitude because when you and I come forth to receive the body and blood of Christ what we are really saying is, “I know who you are. Otherwise, this is the most ridiculous hour of my life. But I do know who you are, and I want you in my life, and I want the courage to trust in you this week.”
When it comes to spirituality, all of us are in the Special Olympics. We’re not perfect. We can’t stand up here and say, “Just look at my body. It’s is the most perfect body in the world. I can do anything.”
And God would say, “Try saying thanks.”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0007)