Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gratitude on Thanksgiving Weekend - Particular Synod on Christians in the Middle East - "Canadian Thanksgiving"

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year “C”) – October 10, 2010 – SEEING GOD'S DOING AND GIVING THANKS [Texts: 2 Kings 5:14-17; [Psalm 98]; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19]

Thanksgiving Day Weekend invites reflection on being a grateful person. In addressing God in gratitude for salvation, the fourth Preface of Weekdays in Ordinary Time observes, “You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself Your gift; our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to Your greatness, but makes us grow in Your grace”.

Today's gospel might cause us to wonder why it is that some people are unable to give thanks. Is it because they are too self-centered or that they feel they deserve more than they ever get? It is not ours to judge. For we have no inkling why people who have been blessed are unable to pause and render thanks for what they have received. It must remain a mystery of the human heart.

In preparing for the gospel narrative of Jesus' cure of ten lepers, Luke had informed his readers that “Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee”.

This statement is problematic on two counts: there is no region between Galilee and Samaria (they share a common border), and Jesus was travelling to Jerusalem (that is in a north-south direction) while the border between Galilee and Jerusalem is east-west.

By mentioning Samaria, however, Luke probably wanted to pick up again the journey motif and prepare for the revelation that the one, grateful leper was a Samaritan. This story of the Grateful Samaritan thus consciously echoes Luke's earlier story of the Good Samaritan (10:25-37).

In His programmatic sermon preached at Nazareth, Jesus had cited the story of the healing of the foreigner, Naaman the Syrian, as a precedent in salvation history for ministering to outcasts. The healing of Naaman by Prophet Elisha, like Elijah's care for the widow at Zarephath, served as an important key for understanding Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom.

Outsiders are the special focus of Jesus' ministry, possibly because they are open to seeing God at work in a way that ordinary believers are not. For, after his healing , Naaman had recognized the special status of Israel's saving Lord when he declared, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel”.

The ten leprous men encountered Jesus in a ‘border’ circumstance, namely at the entrance to a village. They were “keeping their distance”, as was prescribed in Numbers 5:2-3 and Leviticus 13:45-46. With one voice, they cried out to Jesus in hope perhaps of alms, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Luke informed his readers that Jesus “saw” these ten and sent them away to the priests, who exercised responsibility for declaring lepers were no longer a health risk and could be reintegrated into social relations with others.

Through Jesus' word God cleansed ten leprous men, but their healing did not happen at once. It took place as they were going to show themselves to the priests. We are informed that one of the ten “saw” that he had been healed and “turned back, praising God with a loud voice”. What this leper saw was not merely that he had been healed, but also that God had been at work in Jesus to restore his health.

All that was in his heart at that moment was summed up by his gesture: “He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him”. The intensity of the leper's gratitude was extraordinary.

Jesus commented sadly that none of the ten healed was found “to return and give praise to God except this foreigner”, “a Samaritan”. Only he was able to respond to Jesus' kindness toward them as an experience of God's favour. Jesus identified this man's gratitude as an expression of faith (“Your faith has made you well”).

A number of years ago a report on wealthy Americans revealed that half of those whom their peers considered successful were unhappy. Perhaps then, there is a need for people to truly “see”—as the Samaritan leper did— the hand of God bestowing blessings (even their achievements won by hard work) and to respond, in faith, with gratitude.

Paul's gratitude to God extended even to the circumstances of his imprisonment for the gospel. Paul knew he might prove unfaithful, but not Christ Jesus (“He remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself”).

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“The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and Witness” that’s the theme of a two week synod of bishops which gets underway here in the Vatican today. Over 300 church leaders, religious and lay experts have begun gathering for the opening Mass which takes place in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

Thirteen delegates from other Christian churches will address the synod, as will a well known Jewish leader, Rabbi David Rosen and, for the first time, a Sunni and Shia Muslim representative.

While focusing primarily on the pastoral needs of the churches across the region, the meeting will also throw the spotlight on the complex political problems in these countries where Christians, mostly, live as minority communities and where many are fleeing from conflict, discrimination or economic hardship.

Among the areas which have suffered most from the exodus of Christians over recent years is the Holy Land itself, birthplace of the faith 2000 years ago but also source of many of the conflicts plaguing the region today.

“What we need to do is convince our people that remaining here is a vocation and not fatalism”. So says Bishop William Shomali, auxiliary to the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem and former rector of the seminary there.

Speaking to Vatican Radio, he said that there are three contributing factors to the haemorrhaging of Christians from the Holy Land: “the three factors are security, economy and religion”. “This is a land that has suffered 8 conflicts in 80 years. It’s too much for a country”, “when the security is not good the economy is not good”.

The third reason is religious, says Bishop Shomali, “Christians are a minority – its not easy to live as a minority. This does not mean that there is persecution here, I refuse this affirmation”. However Bishop Shomali adds that many people simply “feel better living in the west”, particularly when it comes to their children’s education. “We need to help them to make the choice to stay, and help them to choose to stay with conviction” (

Let us remember in Prayer the Synod Members in their deliberations these next two weeks, October 10-24.


[In order to help the faithful to unite in common prayer, Father Rifaat Badr, a priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, editor-in-chief of, wrote the following prayer for the success of the Synod, from its preparatory phase through to the implementation of its recommendations and decisions. This prayer is inspired by the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI presented on the occasion of his Apostolic Visit to Cyprus in June 2010 and which focuses on the life of faith, communion and witness.]

Heavenly Father,who loves the human person, Creator of Heaven and earth, You desired the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, that He would be born in the course of time, in our blessed land, to the Virgin Mary and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Successor of Saint Peter, Pope Benedict XVI desired to invite Your people, pastors and faithful to a special Synod for the Catholic Church in the Middle East. Walk with us, Lord, and bless us; guide us in this faith journey; inspire us to appreciate the great treasures that the East has received from You, so that it becomes the encounter point of religions, the center of dialogue for human civilizations.

Good Shepherd, you call us to be Your disciples here and now, make us a Church that is conscious of her identity.  Deepen her faith in you as Lord and Master. Vivify the communion among her members and among the different Churches and witness, in her individual members and institutions to Your Gospel and Your Resurrection throughout our Churches, our society and the entire world.

Prince of Peace, our land is thirsty for security and well-being; spread your peace and your security in hearts and among nations. Make dialogue fertile and cooperation fruitful among the followers of the religions. Lord of hope, lead us in the midst of the pains of our present time, so that we might live love, deepen faith and strive to hope.  By the strength of the Eucharist, through the intercession of our mother Mary, let us lift up all glory to the Loving Father, to the Son our Savior and to the Spirit the Consoler, now and forever. Amen

* * * * * *


Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day (Canadian French: Jour de l'Action de grâce), occurring on the second Monday in October (since 1959), is an annual Canadian holiday to give thanks at the close of the harvest season.

On January 31, 1957, the Canadian Parliament proclaimed: “ A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed … to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October. ”

As a liturgical festival, Thanksgiving corresponds to the English and continental-European Harvest festival, with churches decorated with cornucopias, pumpkins, corn, wheat sheaves, and other harvest bounty, English and European harvest hymns sung on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, and scriptural selections drawn from biblical stories relating to the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.[citation needed]

While the actual Thanksgiving holiday is on a Monday, Canadians might eat their Thanksgiving meal on any day of the three-day weekend, though Sunday and Monday are the most common. While Thanksgiving is usually celebrated with a large family meal, it is also often a time for weekend getaways.

The Thanksgiving weekend, given that it invariably falls at the very end of the summer, is traditionally a perfect time to put away the patio furniture, close the cottage and pull the boat up, thus getting ready for the long cold winter.

Various First Nations in Canada had long-standing traditions celebrating the harvest and giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops. Canada's First Nations and Native Americans throughout the Americas organized harvest festivals, ceremonial dances, and other celebrations of thanks for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in North America

Byward Market Vegetable Stall

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean. Frobisher's Thanksgiving was not for harvest but homecoming. He had safely returned from a search for the Northwest Passage, avoiding the later fate of Henry Hudson and Sir John Franklin. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony in Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving the long journey. The feast was one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations by Europeans in North America. Frobisher was later knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in northern Canada named after him — Frobisher Bay.

Fresh Ontario Peaches

At the same time, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, in 1604 onwards also held huge feasts of thanks. They even formed 'The Order of Good Cheer' and gladly shared their food with their First Nations neighbours.

After the Seven Years' War ended in 1763 handing over of New France to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year. After the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States and came to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872 to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

Starting in 1879 Thanksgiving Day was observed every year, but the date was proclaimed annually and changed year to year. The theme of the Thanksgiving holiday also changed each year to reflect an important event to be thankful for. In its early years it was for an abundant harvest and occasionally for a special anniversary.

After World War I, both Armistice Day and Thanksgiving were celebrated on the Monday of the week in which November 11 occurred. Ten years later, in 1931, the two days became separate holidays, and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day. (

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