“As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, ‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’ Then he said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.’” (Lk. 17:11-19)
Most priests will probably tell you that preparing a homily for a school Mass isn’t always easy. For starters, your “audience” could very well be students from kindergarten (maybe even preschool) through eighth grade. The mentors in my life have always taught me to keep it simple. Still, sometimes it’s not that easy to reach them. But God breaks through and leads you to some simple insight that opens the door.
Such was the case last week when we celebrated Mass with our students here at Saint Jude School. The Gospel of the day was the one included above. We will proclaim the same passage again on Thanksgiving Day. The way my brain works when I’m preparing to preach to our students begins at the level of the adult language in my head, and then I try to come down 2 or 3 levels to where the children are. And so, it occurred to me early that morning prior Mass, that, a lot of people simply do not say “thank you” any more. To begin the homily, I asked the students to talk with the person next to them and ask, “who was the last person you said ‘thank you’ to?” Some said that it had been to their parents, some said teachers, others had said it to grandparents, and so on. And as I was standing there listening to them, a very simple 3 word challenge came to mind for me. “BE THE ONE!” (We had also done a quick “Geaux Tigers!” thing at the beginning, so I was capitalizing on the energy.) I asked them to repeat after me loudly, “BE THE ONE!”
Scripture tells us, “…ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?” I’ve always challenged myself with the question, “am I with the nine? Or am I the one?” This day, though, I found myself called to be a little more declarative with the challenge. Every single day of our lives, you and I are called to break away from the crowd (of those who do not stop to say “thank you”) and BE THE ONE! When was the last time that you said those words to someone?
One of my Monday morning rituals every week is to write thank you notes. I look back over the previous week and weekend and ask myself who might benefit from one. Then, I write them out by hand. No text messages. No emails. No FB posts. Just a good old-fashioned note. And most people, when they receive them, tell me, “awe, you really didn’t have to do that.” No, I didn’t. But I’ll bet you this. It made their day.
Who needs to hear it from you? Right now? This week? We’re all moving at the speed of light, or, as some have coined it, “the speed of life.” Still, we need to pull over every now and then and make the conscious choice to BE THE ONE, as Jesus himself did at table with his apostles on the night before he died for us. Do it. Choose someone. Today. And tell them simply, genuinely, “thank you.”