Ordinary 28th Sunday – GRATITUDE THERAPY

Ordinary 28th Sunday

2Kg. 5: 14-17                            2Tim. 2: 8-13                            Lk. 17: 11-19



The virtue of gratitude has got potency to lift our lives to higher realms.


Gratitude: A Virtue:

It is an old European story! Satan had kept its shop of seeds open – seeds of hatred, fear, doubt, despair, revenge, pride, greed etc.. Many came and purchased the seeds. There came a wise traveller! He carefully looked at different types of seeds. He seemed to be not interested in buying them. So the Satan began to brag about the powerfulness of his seeds. He said that his seeds are very potent – can grow anywhere – and are fast-growing. The wise man was sad to hear about the powerfulness of the seeds of negativity. He asked Satan, “Tell me frankly whether there is any heart in which these seeds cannot grow.” On this question, the Satan’s face became very pale. With a bit of sadness, the Satan said, “Yes! there is one heart in which none of these seeds can grow. It is a thankful heart.”

It is said that gratitude is the virtue that is the platform for all the other virtues. When a person is thankful,  one begins to overflow with goodness and love, and  there is no place for hatred. Gratitude necessarily involves humility since we consciously acknowledge our dependence upon others, and thus there can’t exist pride. Gratitude makes a person contented and thus greed can’t find its place in one’s heart. In short, the singular virtue of gratitude can make a person virtuous. It is said that the famous scientist Einstein used to chant ‘Thank you’ in his regular walks. Melody Beattie, an American author of self-help books, very beautifully and candidly writes,  “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

This is the precise reason why the Bible often invites us to be thankful. The Book of Leviticus speaks of ‘Thanksgiving Offering/Sacrifice’ (7:13, 22:29). “O Give thanks to the Lord” is an oft-repeated injunction in the Bible (1Chr. 16: 8, 34; Ps. 105:  1; Sir.51:1). Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth” (Mt. 11: 25). He thanked God before the institution of the Eucharist (Lk. 22: 19). Paul often thanked God (Rom. 7: 25; 1Cor. 1: 4, 14; Phil. 1: 3). He also invites us to be thankful (Col. 3: 15; 1Thes. 5: 18).

Gratitude: A Path to Relationship

It is clear that the readings focus on the theme of gratitude. In the gospel, the gratitude of the Samaritan leper is contrasted with the ingratitude of nine Jewish lepers. As the gospel presents the attitude of Jewish lepers in contrast to the Samaritan counterpart, the first reading too makes an indirect comparison of the attitude of Naaman with that of the Israelites. Naaman, after experiencing the miraculous healing of Yahweh, swore that he would not worship and serve any other God than Yahweh. He swore his fidelity to Yahweh alone. This attitude of Naaman was in sharp contrast to that of the Israelites. They, on their way out of Egypt, witnessed a lot of miracles and extraordinary works of Yahweh. They witnessed God bringing them out of Egypt “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Dt. 5: 15). However the Israelites were not hesitant to turn against Yahweh at the least of discomfort. Their constant reaction against Moses and Yahweh revealed their infidel and ungrateful nature.

One main reason why Jesus wanted the Jewish lepers to be grateful was, not because he was expecting it, but because gratitude has got a tremendous capacity to create space for God and others in one’s life. Gratitude is a powerful leveller of the ego. In gratitude, the overweening ego, which is always focused on aggrandizing its own achievements, qualities and personality, is forced to look outside itself and acknowledge the role of God and others in its life. Gratitude helps us recognise that we are not the be-all and end-all of our lives. Countless forces have contributed to our existence without who we would have perished. The more we practice gratitude therefore, the more humble and open we become.   So it can be said that gratitude makes us to come out of our self-centred lifestyle and makes us capable of relationship. That is, gratitude paves path for genuine and deeper relationship in our lives.

Gratitude: A Therapy:

There is a branch of psychology, called Positive Psychology. Researches in positive psychology indicate that those who practise gratitude have lower levels of depression and stress, and they are more satisfied with their social relationships. Studies also reveal that practising gratitude daily can improve our sleep, increase energy levels and can decrease blood pressure. Robert A Emmons, a positive psychologist and a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, has authored a book ‘Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude can make you happier. He is the proponent of  what is called ‘Gratitude Therapy’. (A therapy is nothing but a healing process). Robert Emmons shows by his experiments that simply keeping a gratitude journal – regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we are thankful – can significantly increase our well-being and life-satisfaction.

Robert Emmons writes, “Keeping a gratitude journal changes people.”  Once he did a research with 1000 people ranging from 8 yrs old to 80 yrs old. He divided them into three groups. The first group was asked to write five blessings every day. The second group was asked to write down five burdens/ problems daily. The third group was supposed to document just neutral events. After a few months, when he checked back, he discovered that the first group, in comparison with other two groups, was more optimistic about future, reported fewer health problems, had more physical energy, slept sufficiently, was less lonely and felt better overall.

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