Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey

Having healthy bodies is a blessing, but isn’t far more important to have healthy souls and grateful hearts, as we see in today’s story of the grateful leper? 

To illustrate that, here’s a story about a man who was divorced.  He was miserable. He had lost faith in himself and other people, even in God.  He had no joy in living anymore. One grey rainy morning he went to a small neighborhood restaurant for breakfast. It was quiet, because even though others were having breakfast, too, they were mostly alone, and no one was speaking to anyone else.  He sat at a table hunched over his coffee stirring it with a spoon, feeling sorry for himself. 

A young mother and her  little daughter also came in and sat a a table nest to the window.  After receiving their breakfast the little the little girl broke the sad silence by saying out loud, “Can we say a prayer before we eat?”   The waitress turned and said to her, “Sure, honey, let’s pray. Will you say the prayer for us?”  Then the waitress turned and said to the rest of the people in the small restaurant, “Please bow your heads.” One by one, their heads went down. The little girl folded her hands, and said aloud, “Thank you, God, for our food. Amen.”

That short prayer of gratitude by a child changed the entire atmosphere. People began talking with one another. Just then the rain stopped and sunbeams begar pouring through the windows.  The waitress thought, “Why aren’t we doing this every morning?”

The man who was divorced said, “All of a sudden my whole frame of mind changed. From that little girl’s example, I started to thank God for all the good things I still had.  I started being grateful.”  The story reminds me of Norman Rockwell’s famous painting, Saying Grace, and of a verse in the prophet Isaiah where it is written, “A little child shall lead them” (Is. 11:6).  Yes, having a healthy body is a blessing, but having a grateful heart, like the little girl or the leper, is far better because when we die we leave our bodies behind, but a grateful heart will go with us forever. I’m thinking of Bob Wahlert for whom we are offering this Mass.  He showed his love and gratitude to God in so many ways, especially with the Wahlert Foundation. He said his goal was to give it all away!  Bob Wahlert expressed his gratitude by attending daily Mass throughout his years as an adult, and serving as a Eucharistic minister and lector.  I’m told Bob liked “dad jokes.” So, in his honor, let me tell a few.  

A panic-stricken man said to his doctor, “You have to help me, I think I’m shrinking.”  The doctor replied: “Now settle down, you’ll just have to learn to be a little patient.”   

Another one: “My doctor told me I was going deaf. The news was hard for me to hear.”

And finally, “I’m reading a horror story in braille. Something bad is going to happen, I can feel it.”

All right!  I’m finished, I mean the homily, not me.