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Show attitude, but make it gratitude

Archbishop Wenski's homily at middle school youth conference, 'To the Heights'

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the middle school youth conference, “To the Heights,” held at Archbishop Edward McCarthy High School Oct. 12, 2019. He celebrated the vigil Mass for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Perhaps, when you were in a bad mood or just didn’t like what you were asked to do, your teacher or one of your parents might have looked at you and said: Young man – or young lady – I don’t like your attitude! Well, today’s Gospel, about the 10 lepers, is about attitudes. Jesus cures 10 lepers – and leprosy was a terrible disease. Its victims were shunned and feared. Thank God today it is almost disappeared – it is a disease that can be treated and cured.

But, in Jesus’s time, it took a miracle to be cured of leprosy. That’s why Jesus told the 10 lepers he cured to go show themselves to the priests. Once their cure was verified, they no longer would be feared or shunned.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski celebrates the Sunday vigil Mass at Archbishop McCarthy High School for more than 400 middle-schoolers gathered for the "To the Heights" conference Oct. 12, 2019.

Photographer: Via Instagram @thomaswenski

Archbishop Thomas Wenski celebrates the Sunday vigil Mass at Archbishop McCarthy High School for more than 400 middle-schoolers gathered for the "To the Heights" conference Oct. 12, 2019.

In the first reading, the prophet Elijah cured the Syrian Naaman – through the power of the God of Israel, which led him to praise God and to recognize that the God of Elijah, the God of Israel, was the true God. His attitude was one of gratitude.

In the Gospel reading, 10 were cured by Jesus – but only one came back to thank him. His attitude was also one of gratitude. We can’t say the others weren’t happy about being cured. They probably went running to find their families, their loved ones, to show what had happened to them. They must have appreciated what Jesus did for them. But only one of them, a Samaritan, had an attitude of gratitude. Realizing that he had been cured, he returned praising God with a loud voice and fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.

That’s the attitude of gratitude, we all should have; but often we don’t. People do good things for us; but we take it for granted. And we do take people for granted a lot. We take our parents for granted, we take our teachers for granted, we take our siblings, our friends for granted. Instead of showing an attitude of gratitude, we show an attitude of entitlement – it’s all about me. But, the point of the Gospel is that it is not.

The attitude of gratitude that Jesus praises in the Gospel is what we should try to cultivate. If only one of the 10 lepers had it, it must not come naturally. We must work at it.

Now, every Sunday, the Christian community comes together to celebrate Mass. And at Mass we do what that Samaritan leper did: we praise God with a loud voice, and we fall at Jesus’ feet and thank him. Another word for Mass is “Eucharist” – and it means “thanksgiving.” At Mass, just like the lepers, we say, “Jesus, Master, have pity!” In fact, that’s how Mass begins: We acknowledge that we are sinners and we pray: Lord, have mercy! Christ have mercy!

Our leprosy is not a disease of the skin; but a disease of the soul, a disease of the heart. And, just as the disease of leprosy separated the lepers from their communities, sin divides us, from God and from one another. When we are honest with ourselves and acknowledge our sins, we feel sorry and we know that we need God to heal us by his forgiveness and mercy. In the Eucharist, we listen to God’s word. He gives good news: God loves us and does want to heal us. And so, we praise God with loud voices – and, on our knees we thank Jesus who shares his life with us in the communion of His Body and Blood.

A lot of times, going to Mass doesn’t excite us. We have many other things to do – and they are not necessarily bad things. And so, we might be like those nine lepers that cured by Jesus never thought to go back and thank him. We need that attitude of gratitude to remind ourselves that, as Catholics, Mass is so very important. In fact, going to Mass on Sundays (or on the vigil of Sunday like tonight) is what Catholics do. It’s what identifies us as Catholics. Some people might say, going to Mass does not do anything for me. But they’re missing the point. Christian life is not “it all about me.” We don’t go to Mass just for Jesus to do something for us, or even to entertain us. We go to Mass to recognize what Jesus has done for us, and so we go to Mass to do something for Jesus: to praise him, to glorify him, to thank him. But whatever we do for Jesus, he’ll give back more than we can ever give him. For, just like he told the 10th leper that his faith has saved him, he strengthens our faith and sends out to tell the world how good God is.

So, when Sunday comes along, and your parents tell you to get ready for Mass, if you’re going to show any attitude, make sure it’s an attitude of gratitude.

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