Homily: The Reason for Giving is Gratitude

This week, I was out for a drive. The weather was beautiful. The city had its usual non-countryside and somewhat ruined appearance, and I was merely doing going shopping. Suddenly, unexpectedly, simple gratitude came upon me. Not earth-shaking, not the result of complicated reasoning, just a modest, gentle joy. I looked in admiration at my hands, which work reasonably well. I thought of the friends in my life, the special ones.

Without being prompted, I said the words, “thank you.”

Later, this very quiet event led me to a conclusion: “/The primary motivation for giving is gratitude/.” Appreciation is a springboard for giving back.

Another example: I have wide-set eyes. I have never been able to look through both lenses of any set of binoculars. For years my brother had set his mind to solving this problem, and he came up with results that almost worked but never quite. Miraculously, as I was writing this very reflection, a birthday present came in the mail. You guessed it, a set of binoculars.

Without being prompted, I said the words, “thank you.”But don’t get excited, these did not fit either. I could look out of either one lens or the other, but not both at the same time. Hoping against hope I wrestled with widening the distance between the arms. It got complicated. By accident I narrowed the distance instead of widening it. Suddenly I could see with both eyes! These binoculars at their widest were too broad for a big head!!!! With the arms narrowed I could see through both, and that meant seeing in 3D as well!

I love the binoculars, of course, but more, I imagined my brother sending them to me, his face holding back a grin. I was grateful to him and for him. It is that gratitude that makes me want to do something for him in return.

Put simply, the primary motivation for giving is gratitude.

In the First Reading, Amos the prophet, who was a shepherd and “dresser of sycamores,” found that God wanted him for a new job. No more watching the flock, no more pruning trees. Now he was to be a visionary: someone who would prophesy to the people. Shocking. Of course Amos dropped everything and went off to Bethel where he preached fire and brimstone against the way of life he saw them living. The head priest of Bethel threw this rebel out of the city, but get this, Amos went south to Judah and sermonized there.

Why did Amos respond so boldly?

Perhaps the fierce, quiet landscape of his country had opened him and had let God give to him. His action was an act of gratitude.

Same thing for the apostles in the Gospel. They were men of action so they did not notice that they were grateful to Jesus. But they did have a growing realization of what he was giving to them, and secretly they loved him more and more. Their gratitude was their reason for going where he sent them.

So when he told them to go out and preach and banish demons, they knew that the mission fit them. He had found a way for them to begin seeing with both eyes.

Similarly, because of a flag being taken down that has long been known, yet unspoken, as a symbol for hatred, racism and lynching. And because of hearing that Pope Francis, without pomp and ceremony, in Bolivia, before a Mass before one million people, unceremoniously changed into his vestments in a Burger King, like one I go in and out of every week. It brings a profound sense of gratitude.

So, let’s us keep our eyes open too. We are very much loved. And ready to be sent.     (John Foley S. J.)



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