Grateful Heart
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim sj (The Freeman) - October 13, 2019 - 12:00am

I heard a story of a woman with a package standing in a crowded bus.  After a while, a young man stood up and offered his seat.  The woman was so shocked at the unexpected gesture that she fainted.  When she recovered, she said “Thank you.”  And the young man fainted! 

Courtesy and gratitude are two of the “endangered species” in our individualistic culture today.

Fr. Mark Link tells the story of a man who was fishing one night in a small boat out in a bay.  It was late and everything was quiet except for a man on the deck of a yacht anchored in the bay.

The man had been drinking and occasionally he let out some incoherent sentences, disturbing the stillness of the night.  The fisherman ignored him and concentrated on his fishing.

Suddenly the fisherman heard a big splash.  He turned and, in the moonlight, he saw that the man on the yacht had toppled into the water.  After an incredible effort, he managed to get the man back on his yacht. 

It was then that the fisherman saw that the man was barely breathing.  Frantically, he gave the man artificial respiration.  When the man seemed to be all right, the fisherman put him to bed on the yacht and swam back to his tiny rowboat.

The next morning the fisherman returned to the yacht to see if the man needed any help.  The man was rude and abusive.  At this point, the fisherman reminded him that he had risked his life the night before to pull him from the water and save him.  Instead of thanking the fisherman, the man shouted at him and ordered him off his yacht.

As the fisherman rowed away in his tiny boat, he could not believe what had just happened.  Looking up to heaven, he prayed in these words:


“Lord, now I know how you feel. 

You gave your life to save us. 

But like the man on the yacht,

instead of thanking you, 

we treated you like an enemy

and ordered you to leave us alone. 

Now I know how you must feel, Lord! 

Now I know!  And it breaks my heart!”

As I think of the story, two passages from the Scripture come to mind.  The first is a well-known passage from the prophet Isaiah.  It is often applied to Jesus to describe how the world has responded to his suffering and death. 

Isaiah writes: “He was spurned and avoided… and we held him in no esteem.  Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our suffering that he endured.” (Isaiah 53:3-4)

The second Scripture passage that comes to mind is today’s Gospel, where Jesus heals 10 lepers and only one – a Samaritan returns to thank him.  And it is this passage, perhaps, that most of us can best relate to.

Just as Jesus did so much for the 10 lepers, so he has done for us and our world.  And our response – for the most part, is a lot like the response of the 10 lepers.  Only one out of ten of us take the time to give thanks to Jesus.

And here, it is only fair to say that the reason we don’t take time to thank Jesus is not because we are evil, or mean, or defensive like the man on the yacht.  Rather, it is simply because we get so involved in our everyday activities that we forget all about Jesus and how much he does for us every day.

There’s a striking story of an old tyrannical king – an all-powerful king.  He was able to impose his will on his subjects in all things.  All things except one – he was unable to destroy their belief in God. 

So he summoned his three wisest advisers.  “Tell me,” he said, “Where can I hide these people’s God so that they will not be able to find him?”

Said the first wise man, “Hide their God beyond the farthest star; there they will not find Him.”                                                 “Not so,” said the second wise man, “One day these people will discover how to fly beyond the stars, on that day they will find their God.  Rather, hide Him on the floor of the ocean.”

“No,” said the third wise man, “One day these people may learn how to swim to the bottom of the ocean; on that day they will find their God.  Rather, hide Him in the everyday lives of the people; there no one will ever find Him.”

And this brings us to an important point.  How does all this apply in a practical way to our lives?  What message do the stories of the ungrateful man on the yacht and the ungrateful lepers in the Gospel, and the tyrannical king hold for us?

The issue is – is your life a constant Eucharist, a  Biblical thanksgiving – a response: a response to God’s self-revealing, His mighty deeds in history, His gifts to His people, His kindness to each man and woman? 

This presence of God, this action of God never stops.  He is always here.  He is always active – in the world – in the Church – in us. 

And so our response – discovery, awareness, wonder, expression – must itself be a continual thanksgiving.  Otherwise God will indeed be a hidden God, hidden in the routine and in the rat race of daily life, in the insensitivity and unawareness, of our daily lives.

At the very least, our stories invite us to take an inventory of our lives to see if we may be treating people around us the way the man on the yacht treated the fisherman.

At the very least, these three stories invite us to ask ourselves if we might be forgetting God in our daily activities, and are we treating Jesus with the same ingratitude of the lepers in today’s Gospel.

At the very least these stories make us realize that gratitude to God and all that God has given us – should not be shut up and confined to one day a year – on Thanksgiving Day.  At the very least, these stories invite us to pray this prayer – paraphrased from George Herbert: “You, who have given us so much, mercifully grant us one thing more – a grateful heart.”

Today’s readings leave us with a challenging question – If a man or woman were searching for God, would that man or woman find Him in your everyday life?

Let’s close with this passage from the prophet Isaiah:

“Give thanks to the Lord…

Among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name.

Sing praise to the Lord

For his glorious achievement.”  (Isaiah 12:4-5)

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