As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
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.”
The human condition is that of suffering.
In one month, I lost the two most important and most loved persons in my life. The losses are immeasurable and my grief ocean-deep. There are times when I have felt abandoned by God.
But then I remind myself of what St. Paul — who was beaten, arrested and imprisoned on more than one occasion, and who was martyred (beheaded) on June 29, AD 67 — said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
In all circumstances, give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
For indeed, despite whatever travails and suffering that afflict us, there is still so much for which we have to thank, beginning with the fact that we are still alive.
Not only is it right and true to thank God for our very lives and for His many other gifts (can you count and enumerate yours?), being thankful actually benefits us in at least seven scientifically-proven ways:
- Gratitude is good for our physical health: Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health — they exercise more often and are more likely to get regular check-ups.
- Gratitude is good for our psychological health: Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, found that gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.
- Gratitude reduces stress and makes us more resilient: For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma by making us more resilient:
- A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – also fosters resilience, enabling you to better withstand trauma and stress. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the 9/11 attacks.
- Grateful people sleep better: Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed helps you sleep better and longer.
- Gratitude opens the door to friendship: Showing appreciation to other people can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem: A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude makes us better able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments, and reduces social comparisons which makes us resentful toward people who seem to have more than we have — whether more money, better jobs, better health, or more friends.
- Gratitude is good for society by enhancing empathy and reducing aggression: Grateful people are more likely to behave in a pro-social manner according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were sensitive and empathic toward other people; less vengeful; and less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback.
I know how difficult it is to be thankful when we are in the throes of great suffering. But I will now make a list of all the many, many things for which I am grateful. I invite you to make a list as well.
And remember, always: “In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,