Advent is a time of stillness – a time of reflection. We need this quiet to enter within ourselves and discover anew each year the miracle of Christmas. Advent is, of course, the preparation for the coming of Christ. Not only in history, but into our hearts. Each year we take a gentle look at ourselves and ask, “Is there anything in my heart is crowding Him out?” “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Sometimes we can be afraid of this look into our interior mirror, but we shouldn’t be. He came to SAVE US from our sins. He came to RECLAIM us as His own. So, this Advent, let us all allow Him to do just that with GRATITUDE!

I believe it is a stroke of Providence that in the United States we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving just after the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Year after year on this day we read the Gospel of Luke telling us the parable of the ten lepers, one of whom returned to give thanks to our Lord after being cured of his disease. To the one who returned, Christ asks the questions, “Where are the other nine? Were not all ten cured? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” What was it that the foreigner had that impelled him to return? Simply put, he had faith. He believed that Jesus would give him what he desired irrespective of the ritual re-admittance to society administered by the Jewish priests.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things that are not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

In faith the Samaritan leper understood the mercy that had been bestowed upon him, not only in a physical healing, but by restoring his life on all levels. Leprosy had had a claim on his life; in his impending physical death due to the disease and in the psychological death it brought by ostracizing him from society, from livelihood, and from emotional support. His deepest hope had now, in Christ, been met by Mercy and he could only give one response. Gratitude welled up within his heart. Gratitude proportionate to both the deep caverns of pain he had borne and the faith he had held out in hope. Now he let it pour forth at the feet of the One who had first filled those caverns with His mercy.

What is our response to the gifts of mercy we have received this year? Let each of us be the one who returns to give thanks, our hearts overflowing with gratitude and praise. After all, there is no better place to be than at His feet.