Pope Francis continued his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he began in May and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world amid the pandemic.
He dedicated Wednesday’s audience to the prayer of thanksgiving, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes as one of the principal forms of prayer, alongside blessing and adoration, petition, intercession, and praise.
The pope reflected on Jesus’ healing of 10 lepers as described in St. Luke’s Gospel (17:11-19).
He said: “From a distance, Jesus invited them to present themselves to the priests, who were designated by law to certify healings that had occurred. Jesus said nothing else. He heard their prayer, their cry for mercy, and He sent them immediately to the priests.”
“Those 10 lepers trusted, they did not remain there until they were cured, no: they trusted and they went immediately, and while they were on their way, they were cured, all 10 were cured. The priests would have therefore been able to verify their healing and readmit them to normal life. ”
The pope noted that only one of the lepers -- “a Samaritan, a sort of ‘heretic’ for the Jews of that time” -- returned to thank Jesus for healing him.
“This narrative, so to speak, divides the world in two: those who do not give thanks and those who do; those who take everything as if it is owed them, and those who welcome everything as a gift, as grace,” he commented.
“The Catechism says: ‘Every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving.’ The prayer of thanksgiving always begins here: to recognize that grace precedes us. We were thought of before we learned how to think; we were loved before we learned how to love; we were desired before our hearts conceived a desire.”
“If we view life like this, then ‘thank you’ becomes the driving force of our day.”
The pope observed that the word “Eucharist” derives from the Greek for “thanksgiving.”
“Christians, as all believers, bless God for the gift of life. To live is above all to have received. All of us are born because someone wanted us to have life. And this is only the first of a long series of debts that we incur by living. Debts of gratitude,” he said.
“During our lives, more than one person has gazed on us with pure eyes, gratuitously. Often, these people are educators, catechists, persons who carried out their roles above and beyond what was required of them. And they provoked us to be grateful. Even friendship is a gift for which we should always be grateful.”
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The pope said that Christian gratitude grew out of an encounter with Jesus. He observed that in the Gospels those who met Christ often responded with joy and praise.
“The Gospel accounts are filled with prayerful people who are greatly touched by the coming of the Savior. And we too are called to participate in this immense jubilation,” he said.
“The episode of the 10 lepers who are healed also suggests this. Naturally, all of them were happy for having recovered their health, allowing them to end that unending forced quarantine that excluded them from the community.”
“But among them, there was one who experienced an additional joy: in addition to being healed, he rejoices at meeting Jesus. He is not only freed from evil, but he now possesses the certainty of being loved. This is the crux: when you thank someone, give thanks, you express the certainty that you are loved. And this is a huge step: to have the certainty that you are loved. It is the discovery of love as the force that governs the world.”
The pope continued: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us seek to remain always in the joy of encountering Jesus. Let us cultivate joyfulness. The devil, instead, after having deluded us -- with whatever temptation -- always leaves us sad and alone. If we are in Christ, there is no sin and no threat that can ever prevent us from continuing joyfully on our way, together with many other companions on the road.”
The pope urged Catholics to follow the “path to happiness” that St. Paul outlined at the end of his First Epistle to the Thessalonians, saying: “Pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thes 5:17-19).