Formed by Gratitude

Tuesday evening, I was able to be at the Orioles’ game at Camden Yards with my family. It was a beautiful night for baseball; the O’s were cranking out homers; and we all got a great golf umbrella as their give-away that night. However, the excitement of the game that most people will remember was the fifth-inning fight between Manny Machado and Yorlando Ventura that cleared the benches. Afterward, there were the inevitable ejections, suspensions, and fines. I heard that Adam Jones has agreed to pay Manny’s fine (even though Manny could pay it himself). I am sure that Manny is grateful for that support from his teammate.

Well, our relationship with Jesus is similar – not because of the fighting, but because He has agreed to pay our debt. Think about it: we all owe God, BIG! Just imagine all the blessings that He has given you in your life. Now, think about all your sins that you “owe” God for too. Those things together constitute our debt to God.

You will never be able to repay that debt – ever. Nor will I. We cannot ever “repay” God for what we owe Him. How does that feel? Pretty bad. That’s the bad news. However, the Good News is even better:

Jesus has paid your debt for you!

When we couldn’t not possibly “make it up” to God, God sent Jesus to live, teach, suffer, and die for us! How does that feel? Pretty good, right?

That’s what Jesus’ parable is about in today’s Gospel; and it is prompted by the actions of this Pharisee, Simon, and the sinful woman. The two debtors both owed significant debts – one was extremely large (a year and a half’s wages), the other was not as big, but nevertheless significant. However, knowing that they couldn’t repay, the creditor “forgave them the debts.” Here’s the point: Jesus asked, “Who will love him more?”

Of course, the one who had a larger debt forgiven.

How would you feel toward me if I paid off your car loan? Or your mortgage?

This is the heart of a Christian attitude; and the sinful woman showed it where Simon did not.

It’s gratitude.

Gratitude is what drives our relationship with God, since He has freely and graciously given us everything. In the absence of the ability to repay, we simply say “Thank you.” We live gratefully.

The sinful woman knew her debt. She also knew Jesus – in a way that Simon, apparently, did not. Simon did not even provide the simplest hospitality to his Guest. Etiquette would dictate that he welcome Jesus by having His feet washed (at least); he should have embraced and welcomed Him; and for a Guest as important as Jesus, anointing His head with oil was certainly appropriate. Simon did none of these things, but the women did them lavishly. She gave of herself by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. She didn’t just anoint Him with oil; she used expensive ointment.

She definitely showed gratitude. And we are called to do the same. Jesus has paid our debt; therefore, we must be grateful. And we must live this way. It’s not enough to wait until we get to heaven (please, God!) to simply say “Thank You.” We should show this gratitude in the way we talk, act, and live. That is how we become witnesses to the great gift that Jesus has given us. That is how we evangelize!

It is no accident that we come here to church to pray and be nourished by the Eucharist – a word that literally means “Thank you!” We are a people formed by gratitude. Therefore, our lives must reflect this gratitude. Then, people who see us live will desire the same experience for which they too can be grateful. People who are grateful live differently.

We see that gratitude modeled by the disciples – especially the women mentioned today – who had received so many blessings themselves. They shared that with Jesus and with one another – just like we are called to do.

This week, may we count our blessings and know what God has done for us, and then live gratefully so others can see how blessed they are.

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