A humble heart is a repentant heart. A repentant heart is a content heart. A content heart is a joyful, grateful, thankful heart. And if you are truly thankful to God, then you will gladly seek to please Him. Sin will no longer be attractive to you . . .
In Holy Scripture, God teaches us how sins grow. It all starts small. Man is not born a murderer or rapist. But, practicing small sins first, we gradually progress to bigger ones.
That is why we need to mercilessly get rid of the little sins. If we don't fight them, they will necessarily get worse.
In the New Testament, in the book of Romans, the apostle Paul talks about people who walk the downward path towards hell. He said,
"although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Just a few verses later, he provides a long list of the sins these unthankful people eventually committed:
“being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1)
Notice how to the path to hell is built. The path starts with ungratefulness, and ends in a long list of every imaginable sin.
With this warning in mind, we consider the gravity of today's Gospel reading. With great love and compassion, Jesus healed ten men from leprosy. After years of suffering, they finally had perfect health.
But nine of them were ungrateful. They did not give thanks to God. Only one man — a foreigner — returned to Christ and thanked Him, glorifying God.
It is very dangerous to lack gratitude. Ungratefulness can lead a person into every kind of sin.
- If you are not thankful for what you have, then you lust after the things you don't have, and you are tempted to steal.
- If you are not thankful for the spouse you have, then you lust after another person, and you are tempted to commit adultery.
- If you are not grateful for the life God has given you, then you begin to criticize God, and you are tempted to blaspheme.
Many of the worst sins begin as a lack of gratitude. And the more we forget Him, the more we refuse to thank Him, the deeper we fall into more serious sins.
Indeed, gratitude is not just a good idea. It is also a command:
"Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms." (Psalm 95:2)
"in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
In Holy Scripture, God tells us to give thanks. But this is easier said than done. When bad things happen, and we go through difficult situations, how can we be grateful? How can we give thanks to God, even when we don't feel like it?
Humility is the answer.
Pride says, "I deserve more! I deserve better!" The result is of pride is discontent, complaints, anger, and blasphemy.
Humility says, "God has already given me better than what I deserve." The result of humility is gratitude, contentment, and virtue.
If you think you deserve a better life than the one you have, you are suffering from pride. if you think you deserve more, then you have a pride problem. If you think you deserve for people to treat you better, then you are still suffering from pride. You have not yet recognized the depths of your own sin.
If you could see the judgment you would receive, if God gave you what you deserved, then you would see your present circumstances as a great mercy. You would be very thankful that God has granted you life, salvation, and the opportunity for repentance. You would have gratitude for the time you have been given, and you would not complain about temporary sufferings.
A humble heart is a repentant heart. A repentant heart is a content heart. A content heart is a joyful, grateful, thankful heart. And if you are truly thankful to God, then you will gladly seek to please Him. Sin will no longer be attractive to you.
Just look at the great things the Lord has done! He has created the whole world, and He has created us in it. He became one of us, and was born on Christmas day. He suffered on the cross, died, and three days later He walked out of His own grave. He conquered death, hell, and the grave. He ascended into Heaven, and He promised that He will return to earth, so that we can live forever with Him.
These are reasons to be grateful! These are reasons to be joyful! These are reasons to give thanks!
Even when everything else in your life goes wrong, all of these things remain true. Even if there is a death in the family, even if you are sick, and even if you have no money, you can still give thanks for Christ, and give thanks for your salvation. You can thank God that the sufferings of this life are only temporary. You can thank God that He has provided a way for you to enter heaven. And you can thank God that when you are in heaven, there will be no more sorrow, no more crying, neither will there be any pain, for the former things will pass away.
Keep your eyes on Christ. Keep your eyes on the Church. And keep your eyes on Heaven. And always be grateful for all of these things. This is how we can obey Christ's command to always give thanks, regardless of our circumstances.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
28th week after Pentecost — Sunday, December 20, 2020
Fr. Joseph Gleason
Read this homily in Russian: Благодарность ведет на небеса - Неблагодарность ведет в ад
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